Researchers have conducted many studies to compare the livability of various countries. When it comes to happiness, Denmark has emerged as one of the happiest countries on the planet. However, this happiness is not reserved to just the home. When Danes go to work, it is often with a smile on their faces. Job satisfaction in Denmark ranks among the highest in the world, so we set out to find out why.
Many workers in Australia are used to working long hours. We often see it as an opportunity to prove our worth. However, in Denmark, the opposite is true. If you’re working long hours, your boss is likely to pull you aside and ask what’s wrong. That’s because they believe in working smarter, not harder. Consequently, the Danes have more leisure time. Additionally, they get five to six weeks holiday leave a year, several national holidays and up to a year of paid maternity/paternity leave. Danish companies recognise that employees have a life outside of work. Moreover, they recognise that their workers will be better engaged at work if they’re happy away from work.
A Low-Power Distance
“Power distance” is the strength of the extent to which the lower ranking individuals of a group or society accept and expect that power is not distributed equally. In Australia, workers are used to a high-power distance from their bosses, in that their bosses give them directives. Conversely, Danish workers experience a low-power distance. In Danish workplaces few direct orders are ever given. And even if they are, employees are more likely to view them as suggestions. Subsequently, Danish employees experience more autonomy and are more empowered at work.
Generous Unemployment Benefits
Most workers in Australia and around the world risk financial ruin if they lose their job. This leads many people to stay in a job in which they feel miserable. However, in Denmark, unemployment insurance provides workers with up to 90% of their original salary for two years. That means that if you’re a Dane and don’t like your job, you can quit that job without risking serious financial loss. This forces companies to treat their employees well or risk losing them.
Ongoing Training and Development
Ongoing education and training have been hallmarks of the Denmark work environment since the mid-1800s. Thanks to government, union and corporate policies, nearly any employee can take up paid training to develop their skills. This allows Danish workers to grow and develop and helps them stay relevant even in a changing work environment. It also makes their jobs richer and more interesting. While some Australian workplaces offer full or partial fee payments and paid training, these benefits are far from standardised.
Arbejdsglæde is a word that exists only in the Scandinavian languages. Arbejde means work and glæde means happiness, so arbejdsglæde is “happiness at work.” For most Danes, a job is not just a means to an end. They fully expect to enjoy themselves at work. Conversely, many people around the world hate their jobs and consider this to be perfectly normal. Moreover, workplaces do little or nothing to create happiness among employees. Instead, they cling to the philosophy that “If you’re enjoying yourself, you’re not working hard enough.”
Having happy employees is important for the survival and performance of any organisation. Happier employees work harder, work better together in teams and are generally more productive. To equal Denmark, Australian workplaces need to shift their thinking regarding what a healthy, good work environment entails.