What Lessons Can Be Learned From The Danish Workplace?

George Bell
What Lessons Can Be Learned From The Danish Workplace?

The way in which companies work in Denmark has long been different to many other businesses around the world, and it consistently ranks highly as a country with some of the happiest employees.

Yet what exactly is the Danish lifestyle? And how can you use it to transform your business into a happy and productive workplace? We explored the key elements of the structure to find out more.

Living Danishly

The concept of ‘living Danishly’ has grown in popularity in recent years, thanks to mainstream works such as Helen Russell’s successful book The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country, and its placing in the World Happiness Report. But how do the Danes achieve this coveted spot? Upon digging deeper, there are key themes that run through the way that they work, live and interact that have played their part in securing the win.

Firstly, Danes are given autonomy over their work and their lives, with flat hierarchies being the norm in businesses. If a Dane decides to work past 4pm, it’s likely that they’ll find themselves the only one in the office. The logic behind this? If you can’t complete your work within the allotted working hours, you simply aren’t working effectively. Time management is key.

Secondly, there is a huge focus on work-life balance within Denmark. This allows for plenty of time for family commitments. In fact, time spent with family, and other social activities with the local community, is actively encouraged by employers.

Furthermore, exercise by all ages is encouraged too, with an emphasis on getting out in nature rather than a gym. This is because Danes believe in taking pleasure from their surroundings, which is why there is such an emphasis on aesthetic furniture and an ergonomic working environment too.

Underpinning everything in Denmark is a culture of empathy. In fact, Denmark place such a high importance on caring about the welfare of others that schoolchildren are actually taught to be empathetic from a young age.

Implementing the Danish way of life into the workplace

So, how can you take some of these principles, and incorporate them into your workplace? A lengthy analysis of Denmark by the Danish Chamber of Commerce and Oxford Research in 2010 identified some key areas that businesses focus on in Denmark; areas that you can easily address in your own company.

Place a heavy importance on work-life balance within your organisation. Denmark is one of the highest ranked countries in the world for flexible working options, so consider what flexible options you can offer to your own employees. Can they work from home, or remotely? Are they able to complete business-critical tasks in shorter working hours?

Think about having a flat hierarchy. You don’t need to remove all management levels, but instead implement a system where transparent communication is free-flowing between all parties. The easiest way to do this to to give employees access to senior leaders at all times, and to reduce the decision making process.

Regular training is offered to Danish employees, so consider doing this in your own organisation. Find a structure that works best for you, but think about a mixed approach of in-house and external training. Focus on building up and developing core business skills like communication and leadership, as well as industry-specific skills.

Do what you can to create an ergonomic working environment where people actually want to be. Think comfy chairs, good lighting, and simple furnishings such as plants. There have been studies to suggest that small additions such as plants can increase both happiness and productivity in the workplace.

Plan social events with the team. This helps build a sense of companionship between employees which can be beneficial for business. Try arranging events for your employees that go further than drinks after work. Consider events that incorporate the families of your employees, and help to foster these bonds between everyone in the team.

It’s important to note that you don’t need to radically transform your organisation to mirror the Danes. Simply think about changing just some of the basic concepts listed above in a way that suits your business to help bring some of the benefits of one of the world’s happiest countries to your workplace.

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