work-life balance in // denmark

photo: anthony delanoix




In our second post delving into work-life balances around the world, we are looking to the country whose residents are frequently named among the happiest people in the world: Denmark.

Akin to neighboring Sweden, the Danes place a huge emphasis on creating the ideal work-life balance. Job contracts are highly flexible, teamwork is actively encouraged and family time is of the utmost importance, hence one of the most advanced maternity leave policies in Europe. 

The healthy resistance to working long hours, combined with generous amounts of personal time, put Denmark top for work-life balance on the OECD's 2015 Better Life Index. It also ranks above average in education and skills, jobs and earnings, income and wealth, and personal security. Read on to discover the benefits of Denmark's work-life balance.


Summer holidays

It's the norm to be given a minimum of five weeks holiday per year, and most companies will allow three weeks to be taken consecutively over the summer months. Winters are long, dark and cold here, so it's important for morale that staff are allowed to enjoy as much sunshine as possible. Summer days are spent outdoors, usually around water, swimming in lakes and in the sea. 


Cycling to work

With Copenhagen being named the world's very first 'bike city', the Danes are synonymous with cycling; statistics shared in 2011 found that over 50% of Copenhageners commuted to and from work by bicycle. Cycling to work in the morning is a great way to wake you up and energize yourself for the working day ahead, as opposed to snoozing on public transport during your commute. This moderate exercise on your way to and from work is also beneficial as it releases endorphins, which help to keep down your stress levels. 

Unsurprisingly, it was a Danish design firm that set up the 'slow bicycle movement', a group taking the world of relaxed cyclists by storm. Check out our coverage of the movement here



Family time

One of the secrets to Denmark's lifestyle success is the shorter working weeks. This encourages a family-friendly work environment, as supported by extensive state support to families with young children. According to The Independent's report on the OECD Better Life Index, only 2% of people in full-time employment work 'very long hours', in comparison to 13% in Britain. 

Since office hours rarely overrun, and meetings are scarcely organised after 4pm, it means workers have more time to socialise, and spend with their families. It's quite usual for Danes to live relatively close to their place of work, which means less hours in the day are spent on commuting to-and-fro. A prompt working day could finish at 5pm, with plenty of time to head home for family meals and enjoy hygge in their homes.  


Communal lunch breaks

Rather than eating at their desks or slipping out of the office one by one, Danish offices tend to specify designated lunch hours for the entire work force. This allows the staff to enjoy their breaks together and to socialise in the middle of the working day, boosting productivity and creativity in the afternoon.

Like Sweden, the coffee culture of Denmark is rife. Check out the renowned Coffee Collective in Copenhagen.


photo: dorfsblog.blogspot



Many offices allow their staff to choose their own hours, varying the time that they start work for the day in order to best suit their needs, such as allowing for dropping their children off at school. There also tends to be opportunities to work from home if necessary and feasible. This flexibility allows the Danes to work out the work-life balance that works the best for them, so that their time in and out of work flows seamlessly. 

A common trait amongst Danish businesses is to encourage more intensive working during the earlier working hours, and to schedule business negotiations over lunch rather than dinner. This allows for earlier finishes, and for families to look after children after school. 


Informal atmosphere

There are exceptions, but the majority of Danish offices operate in a way that is much more relaxed than is the norm in the UK. It is common for Danes to discuss their personal lives throughout the working day, rather than being discouraged from communicating with fellow employees. The reasoning behind this informal atmosphere is that people are more likely to work harder if they enjoy the environment in which they work.


photo: startup stock photos


If you're now itching to sample some Danish culture, check out our Sunday Guides to Copenhagen, or the less well known Aarhus

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