Happiness is not just a state of mind, it’s a nation too. Ever since United Nations released its first ever World Happiness Report in 2012, Denmark has been consistently crowned the happiest nation on the planet. Despite its sting-chill winters and long dark nights, you’d wonder why? And it’s not just that, Danes are happy at work too. Most studies indicate that when it comes to employee satisfaction, the happiest in the world are in Denmark. The U.S. hasn’t even cracked the top ten in the list. A 2013 study by Gallup revealed that 70% of American workers are ‘actively disengaged’ or ‘not engaged’, costing the U.S. economy $450 to $550 billion annually due to lost productivity. On the other hand, the number has barely touched 10% when it comes to Danish workers. Let’s gain some new insights into what brings them joy and let some of Danish happiness rub off on us! WORK-LIFE BALANCE Danes are more likely to leave the office at reasonable hours on most days, enjoy five to six weeks of vacation per year, a number of national holidays and up to a year of paid maternity/paternity leave. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) statistics, the average Dane works for only 1,540 per year, while the average American toils for 1,790 hours. The study also forms a link between decent amount of leisure and happiness. Danes enjoy more leisure hours compared to any OECD workers. In America, working fifteen hours a day demonstrates commitment to the company, where time is the metric that measures productivity, regardless of the end result. Danish companies, au contraire, acknowledge the fact that employees have a life outside of work too, and consider grinding out 80 hours a week anything but a favorable deed for all. When it comes to workplace productivity, Denmark has the 3rd highest productivity among OECD countries. AUTONOMY In Denmark, if your boss gives you a direct order (which is quite rare) they are more likely to be viewed as suggestions, which is a remarkable sign of empowerment and autonomy amongst employees. Dutch sociologist, Geert Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory, which evaluated business culture in more than 100 countries based on several criteria, also included “power distance”. A high power distance in an organization indicates that every order from the boss is likely to be carried out as the word of law. Workplaces in Denmark have the lowest power distance in the world at 18. Whereas, U.S. workplaces have a high power distance of 40, making them look like a tyrannical hellhole. Secondly, by law, workplaces in Denmark with employees beyond 35 must open up seats on the board for employees. Employees are then elected by their peers and are empowered with equal footing and voting power as all other board members. AMAZING EMPLOYMENT BENEFITS & CONSTANT TRAINING If a Dane is not happy with his/her job, that person can easily quit without having to worry about any financial troubles. In the U.S. you simply have to stick to your job, whether you like it or not because once you lose your job, you’re letting everything up in smoke. The unemployment insurance in Denmark provides 90% of the citizen’s original salary for up to two years. Secondly, Danish companies are more willing to treat their employees well than to let them go. In the mid-1800s, Denmark set up a new policy wherein workers can receive lifelong education. Commonly known as active labor market policy, it enables employees to attend paid training and pick up a new skill. ARBEJDSGLÆDE The word, arbejdsglæde which only exists in Danish and not in English means happiness at work. Danish workplaces believe in wanting to genuinely keep their employees happy. Similarly, for most Danes, a job means more than just earning, it also means fully enjoying yourself at work. While it the U.S. it’s considered perfectly normal to hate your job! Let’s go through it again: less work for health, well-being and productivity for more happiness at work!
Currently editor at The HR Digest Magazine. She helps HR professionals identify issues with their talent management and employment law. | Priyansha tweets at @PriyanshaMistry
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