Swedish word of the day: vobba

Our chosen word of the day is a colloquial Swedish term that you’re likely to start hearing a lot around this time of year.

Att vobba is a handy Swedish verb which means, roughly, “to work from home even though you’ve taken a paid day off to take care of your sick child”. Allow us to explain.

Picture this: because of the current cold weather, your child is sick and you have to stay at home to look after them. In Sweden, parents of young children benefit from a generous policy allowing paid days off in such cases, but if the work is piling up on your desk, a day off may not be practical, especially not once flu season starts.

That’s where vobba comes in. It’s a portmanteau or mash-up of two words: in this case the verbs att vabba (to take care of a child) and att jobba (to work).

Att vabba is also a recently coined word, which comes from the abbreviation VAB (vård av barn or ‘care of child’). This is the official term for time off granted to care for a sick child, as part of Sweden’s family-friendly work culture preventing parents from income loss.

Vobba on the other hand refers to a combination of working and looking after an ill child. Officially, it’s not possible to vobba if you’ve taken a VAB day, the reason being that you can’t claim a salary and VAB benefit at the same time. But an employer may be understanding if you choose to work from home to be with the child if you’re still able to carry out most of your duties, or you can choose to claim VAB for only part of the workday and work the rest of the time. 

These options are actually becoming more popular than the tradition VAB, so the chances are this word will be sticking around in the Swedish lexicon for a long time.


Mitt barn är sjuk; jag måste vobba.

My child is sick; I have to work from home to look after them

Jag skulle egentligen vabba men vobbade istället

I was supposed to stay at home and take care of my child, but I worked from home instead

Do you have a favourite Swedish word you’d like to nominate for our word of the day series? Get in touch by email or if you are a Member of The Local, log in to comment below.

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