Category Archives: Happy At Work

How to be happy at work

5 reasons why Danish workers are the happiest in the world

You will often see Denmark listed as one of the “happiest countries on the planet.” Interestingly Danes are not only happy at home, they’re also happy at work and according to most studies of worker satisfaction among nations, the happiest employees in the world are in Denmark.

Here’s just one data point: Gallup found that 18% of American workers are actively disengaged, meaning they are “emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive.” The same number for Danish workers is only 10%.

But why are Danish workers so much happier than their counterparts around the world? Here are five fundamental differences that explain what’s going on.

1: REASONABLE WORKING HOURS

I once talked to an American who had gotten a job as a manager at a Danish company. Wanting to prove his worth, he did what he had always done and put in 60 to 70 hours a week. After a month, his manager invited him to a meeting. He was fully expecting to be praised for his hard work, but instead he was asked “Why do you work so much? Is something wrong? Do you have a problem delegating? What can we do to fix this?”

Some non-Danes wonder if Danes ever work. Not only do Danes tend to leave work at a reasonable hour most days, but they also get five to six weeks of vacation per year, several national holidays and up to a year of paid maternity/paternity leave. While the average American works 1,780 hours and the average South Korean 2,024 hours per year, the average Dane only works 1,408, according to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) statistics. Danes also have more leisure hours than any other OECD workers and the link between sufficient leisure and happiness is well established in the research.

The difference to other countries is stark. Many companies around the world celebrate overwork as a sign of commitment. “You have to put in the hours” is the message in the mistaken belief that the more hours you work, the more work you get done. We call this “The Cult of Overwork.” Danish companies, on the other hand, recognize that employees also have a life outside of work and that working 80 hours a week is bad for both employees and the bottom line.

2: LOW POWER DISTANCE

In many countries, if your boss gives you an order, you pretty much do what you’re told. In a Danish workplace, extremely few direct orders are ever given and employees are more likely to view them as suggestions.

Dutch sociologist Geert Hofstede has quantified the culture in more than 100 countries on several parameters, one of which is “power distance.” A high power distance means that bosses are undisputed kings whose every word is law. Danish workplaces–with a score of 18-have the lowest power distance in the world. Just for comparison,  Belgium has a power distance of 65, China clocks in at 80 and Malaysia holds the world record at 100.

By law, any Danish workplace with more than 35 employees must open up seats on the board for employees. This means that Danish employees experience more autonomy and are more empowered at work. Here’s just one example: By law, any Danish workplace with more than 35 employees must open up seats on the board for employees, who are elected to the board by their peers and serve on an equal footing and with same voting powers as all other board members.

3: GENEROUS UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

In Denmark, losing your job is not the end of the world. In fact, unemployment insurance seems too good to be true, giving workers up to 90% of their original salary for two years. In the U.S., for instance, losing your job can easily lead to financial disaster and loss of health insurance. This leads to job lock i.e. staying in a job you hate because you can’t afford to leave.

Simply put: If you’re a Dane and you don’t like your job, you can quit that job without risking serious financial problems, forcing companies to treat their employees well or risk losing them.

4: CONSTANT TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT

Since the mid-1800s, Denmark has focused on life-long education of its workers. This policy continues to this day, with an extremely elaborate set of government, union, and corporate policies that allow almost any employee who so desires to attend paid training and pick up new skills. It’s called an “active labor market policy,” and Denmark spends more on these types of programs than any other country in the OECD.

This lets Danish workers constantly grow and develop and helps them stay relevant (not to mention stay employed) even in a changing work environment. It also makes their jobs richer and more interesting.

5: A FOCUS ON HAPPINESS

Here’s a word that exists only in the Scandinavian languages: Arbejdsglæde. Arbejde means work and glæde means happiness, so arbejdsglæde is “happiness at work.” This word is not in common use in any other language on the planet.

Many people around the world hate their jobs and consider this to be perfectly normal.

For instance, where we Scandinavians have arbejdsglæde, the Japanese instead have karoshi, which means “Death from overwork.” And this is no coincidence; there is a word for it in Danish because Danish workplaces have a long-standing tradition of wanting to make their employees happy. To most Danes, a job isn’t just a way to get paid; we fully expect to enjoy ourselves at work.

In other countries, the attitude towards work is often very different. A few years ago I gave a speech in Chicago, and an audience member told me that “Of course I hate my job, that’s why they pay me to do it!” Many people around the world hate their jobs and consider this to be perfectly normal. Similarly, many workplaces around the world do little or nothing to create happiness among employees, sticking to the philosophy that “If you’re enjoying yourself, you’re not working hard enough.”

THE UPSHOT

I’m not trying to paint Danish companies as utopias for workers and their international counterparts as tyrannical hellholes. There are bad Danish workplaces and stellar non-Danish ones–Zappos and Google are two that I’ve personally visited and studied.

But studies have uncovered a number of systemic and cultural differences between Denmark and the rest of the world that serve to explain why Danish workers are on average so much happier.

This goes far beyond happiness. We know from any number of studies that happy workers are more productive and innovative and that consequently, happy companies have happier customers and make more money. This may help explain why Danish workers are among the most productive in the OECD and why the Danish economy continues to do so well.

Related posts

10 steps to build a strategy for happiness

If you want to build a happy workplace, you have to take happiness seriously – paradoxical as that may sound. You must make sure to include happiness in every aspect of the company.

In this presentation from our latest Conference on Happiness At Work, I share 10 ways that some of the world’s best and most successful workplaces have built happiness into their DNA by making it one of their top strategic priorities, including things like:

  • Hire for happiness
  • Appoint a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer)
  • Plan for happiness
  • Measure and promote happiness – not satisfaction
  • Promote and train managers for happiness

Our next  conference is in May in Copenhagen. See the full program and get your tickets here.

Congratulations to 15 graduates from 8 countries at our Chief Happiness Officer Academy in San Diego

Graduates from 8countries ready to create happy workplaces

Our latest Chief Happiness Officer Academy was a hit. Engaged participants from 8 countries (USA, Argentina, Mexico, Turkey, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Belgium and Czech Republic) all contributed with high energy and tons of great ideas and questions over the 3-day training.

And for the first time we even got to do the Academy at the offices of WD-40 in San Diego so we could experience their culture in person.

WD-40’s CEO Garry Ridge gave us a tour and explained their amazing culture

The next CHO Academy is in Copenhagen in June 2019 – read more and see the full program here.

5 Ways to Procrastinate Effectively

Procrastinate effectively
If you search for “procrastination” on google you’ll find a massive number of articles on how to stop procrastinating and get stuff done.

These articles will tell you that there is only one reliable way for you to get stuff done:

  1. Check your todo-list for the next item
  2. Complete item no matter what it is
  3. Go to step 1

The message here is that if only you had enough willpower, backbone, self-control and discipline this is how you would work too.

Well guess what: Many people don’t work that way. Sometimes you’re in the mood for a task and doing it is ridiculously easy and a lot of fun. Sometimes doing the very same task feels worse than walking barefoot over burning-hot, acid-covered, broken glass and forcing yourself to do it anyway is a frustrating exercise in futility.

Sometimes procrastinating is exactly the right thing to do at a particular moment. Sadly, this is largely ignored by the procrastination-is-a-sign-of-weakness, the-devil-finds-work-for-idle-hands crowd.

An example: Sometimes I have a great idea for an article, but I can’t get it written. I try writing it one way, I try another but I just can’t get it finished. Invariably, I end up procrastinating. Suddenly while I’m procrastinating, the idea I was missing comes to me and the whole article is suddenly clear in my mind. When I next sit down to write it, it takes no time and writing it is a pure pleasure.

I could’ve forced myself to write that article the first time around – if I’d had enough discipline! But it would have been a struggle all the way and the result wouldn’t have been half as good. I can just hear people crying “Well, your articles still aren’t half as good” :) That’s another discussion!

For me, procrastination is just another tool I use. A way to recharge and get ideas. The important thing is to procrastinate effectively.

Here’s how you do it.

1: Procrastinate without guilt

Do not beat yourself up for procrastinating. Everybody does it once in a while. It doesn’t make you a lazy bastard or a bad person.

If you leave a task for later, but spend all your time obsessing about the task you’re not doing, it does nothing good for you. So procrastinate without guilt.

2: Procrastinate 100%

Do you know those people who procrastinate from some important task – and all they can talk or think about is the task they’re not doing. Often to the point of obsession!

Don’t. Throw yourself 100% into whatever it is you are doing, whether you’re vacuuming, watching TV, reading, surfing the web or out drinking with your friends. Do it and enjoy it to the max.

3: Choose to procrastinate

Don’t let procrastination sneak up on you, so that you suddenly find that you’re doing something other than you should be. Instead, choose consciously to not work on your current task. Instead of fighting it, say to yourself “I will now procrastinate”.

This way procrastination isn’t something that happens to you, something that you’re powerless to control. As if it ever could be :) This way you’re in charge and procrastination is a tool you use.

4: Ask yourself why you procrastinate

There can be many good reasons to procrastinate:

  • Some crucial ideas, notions, thoughts may come to you only when you’re not working on your project.
  • Effective procrastination recharges your batteries and gives you new energy.
  • Maybe there’s something else you could be doing instead and procrastinating means you get it done.
  • Maybe whatever it is you’re supposed to do, turns out to be irrelevant or even a bad idea. Maybe the reason you procrastinated was, that your subconscious knew this before your conscious mind.

Or maybe – and most importantly – you just hate doing whatever it is you’re supposed to do and that’s why you can’t make yourself do it. Many people hate their jobs (20% according to some studies) and constant procrastination can be a sign that you’re one of them. In that case, take it seriously, and do something about it.

Working non-stop means missing out on all of this. When you find yourself procrastinating, ask yourself why. Don’t just accept the traditional answer: “There’s something wrong with me, I’m a bad, lazy person”.

5: Take responsibility for procrastinating

When you choose to procrastinate, make sure to update your deadlines and commitments. Let people know, that your project will not be finished on time and give them a new deadline.

Procrastinate now. I dare you!

Procrastination is not bad in itself. Do it right, and it’s a way to be more efficient and have more fun with what you’re working on.

In fact, I challenge you to procrastinate this very moment. Pick a task that you should be working on right now, but where your heart isn’t really in it. Then, rather than work half-heartedly on this task, procrastinate fully and consciously as described above.

Notice how it changes how you think about your task and what it does for you when you procrastinate 100% and without feelings of guilt.

Then write a comment and tell me how it went.

Related posts

We just announced our 10th conference on happiness at work – Early bird rate available until February 28

We are incredibly proud to announce the program for our 10th conference on happiness at work – this jubilee edition is bigger and better than ever.

We have 15 amazing speakers from 12 countries to explain the theory and practice of happiness at work.

Check out the program and get your tickets here – early bird tickets are available until February 28.