5 Ways Danish People Have Nailed Being Happy at Work

Katie Sweeney

Denmark is often listed as one of the happiest countries in the world, and naturally, this implies that Danes are happy with all aspects of their lives—including work. In fact, a recent poll discussed in Fast Company shows that Danish workers are almost twice as satisfied with their professional lives as American workers are. Danish author Alexander Kjerulf breaks down the major differences between office life in Denmark and the U.S. in his book, Happy Hour Is 9 to 5: How to Love Your Job, Love Your Life, and Kick Butt at Work. Here are Kjerulf’s five ways that Danes have nailed being happy at work.

  1. They work less. The average American works 1790 hours per year, while the average Dane works 1540 hours per year. Most Danish offices operate with reasonable working hours, and there is no pressure to stay late or work long weeks. It’s a misconception that the more hours you work, the more you get done. Danish companies don’t allow employees to work too many hours, as they realize that working 80-hour weeks is bad for the employee and the job that needs to get done.
  2. The boss has less power. In America, many bosses are king-like, and if they give an employee an order, the employee has to follow through with this task. However, in Denmark, fewer direct orders are given, and employees often see these comments as suggestions rather than be-all and end-all commands. This allows the Danish worker to feel more empowered (and happier!) at work.
  3. The government provides insane unemployment benefits. When a Danish worker loses his or her job, unemployment insurance requires that they are given 90% of their original salary for two years. Crazy, right?! When you lose your job in the United States, you could end up being financially ruined, as unemployment benefits are minimal. This causes many American employees to stay in a job they hate.
  4. It’s important for employees to continue learning. Denmark believes in lifelong education for workers, and most companies have corporate policies that allow employees to take paid classes to learn new skills. This causes Danish workers to be more relevant and engaged in the workplace. 
  5. Danish companies want their employees to be happy. An emphasis is placed on workplace happiness, so much so that there is a word in the Danish language (but not in the English language) that means "happiness at work." In the U.S., it’s commonplace to have a job that you dislike, and American companies place little importance on employees’ happiness. Often, the attitude is if you’re having too much fun, you’re not working hard enough.

To learn more about finding happiness at work, read Powered by Happy: How to Get and Stay Happy at Work by Beth Thomas.

Do your employers care about your happiness at the workplace? Tell us your experiences below.

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