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Want a better work-life balance? Try living Danishly…

By 02/09/2015Work

If your back-to-school resolution is to leave the office on time or make space for friends and family in a hectic schedule, take inspiration from the land of perfect pastries and Nordic Noir. In 2013, Helen Russell, swapped her glossy magazine job in London to write about happiness in Denmark. What she discovered was that there was more to living Danishly than Nordic Noir and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau-lookalikes*.

*Though, FYI, these too. It’s no wonder Danes are so happy.

Women in the UK are working longer hours than ever before.  And friends, family and leisure time (remember that?) are being pushed to the bottom of our ‘To Do’ list. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Danes are famed for their work-life balance and the average Danish worker only puts in 34 hours a week.

What helps is that Danes don’t go in for presenteeism, so working until 7pm is more likely to earn you a lecture on inefficiency and time management than a pat on the back. As a result, Denmark regularly tops the charts in terms of worker motivation and has happiest workforce in the world according to a study from randstand. This doesn’t make them slackers; rather, it makes them more motivated. Workers are 12% more productive when they’re in a positive state of mind, making Denmark the third most productive country in Europe.

But you don’t you don’t need to emigrate to get a better work-life balance, Danish-style. I have essentially taken one for the team, enduring six-month winters and 50%+ taxes (nowhere’s perfect…) so that you don’t have to, compiling the best bits of Denmark to put together some top tips for working more Danishly, wherever you are.

Get a life…outside work Having somewhere better to be is the number one thing that will get you out of the office at the end of the day – and researchers have found that prioritising leisure also makes us more productive at work. Danes are big on hobbies, clubs and associations and studies show that recreating with other people can also improve wellbeing. So sign up for that art class you’ve always fancied or take up trampolining – and get happier, healthier and more productive.

Think on your feet Most Danish desks are fitted with hydraulics so you can work standing up – something that’s been proven to be better for your health as well as making meetings more efficient (it’s amazing how quickly colleagues can get to the point when they’re on their feet…). Instead of a ‘sit down’ to chat, try a ‘stand up’ or a walking-meeting instead.

Fake a family You know your wonder woman colleague with the three children who always has to slip away early? Well in Denmark, everyone’s at it. Danish work-life balance expert Martin Bjergegaard advises everyone to ‘pretend’ they have kids, giving leisure activities the same attention a family demands and creating artificial deadlines to increase efficiency – and get you home on time.

Become a player In the land of Lego, playing is considered a worthwhile occupation at any age and Danes are regularly cited as being some of the most creative people in the world – because they have time to play and are encouraged to do it, even as adults. So get building; create; bake. Just do and make things as often as possible and it’ll help you be more creative at work, too.

For more things Danes do differently plus how we can all get happy, Scandinavian style, have a read of Helen Russell’s new book, The Year of Living Danishly is out now, published by Icon


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