I am the kind of person that loves going to work. In fact, if you call me a workaholic, you’d probably be correct. If the company is right then you will see me spending more than 60 hours a week there, doing my best to prove myself, learn more and earn that extra cash – for shopping of course haha.
But working too much and not giving myself the time to slow down and maintain a healthy lifestyle, as I used to do in my previous job, left me feeling constantly exhausted, with no free time, stressed and still kinda unhappy. Some background: I worked for several years in one of the biggest fashion brands and while the location was Copenhagen, It was a Spanish company with a southern European mentality, management and attitude towards work/life balance. It was quite similar to what is common in my home country.
When I compare this mentality and environment with Danish and Scandinavian companies in general, I notice a larger difference, both in how the company treats its employees, but also how the employees treat their job. I’ve seen this both in my own and in my boyfriend’s and my Danish friend’s careers.
So if work in a busy environment and you are looking for ways to improve your work life balance or simply curious about the work life balance here in Scandinavia, here are my insights:
In the company I used to work for, it was all about titles and positions, who got the highest position and with it, more authority. It created a very competitive environment because everybody wanted to higher positions, higher salary and most importantly, more authority. But now that I’ve learned more about Scandinavian work life I realise that it was all in our heads, in the end nobody got power except for the company itself.
In a Scandinavian company, everything is more calm and the environment is more respectful. To some extent, everybody is equal or at least behave as such. The managers don’t usually show off their authority by bossing people around but focus more on working with and guiding them. You will often see the company owners having chats with or sitting with interns at lunch because the hierarchy is quite flat. The employees are treated with respect, no matter what position you have or how high in position you are, everybody matters.
Don’t take things to personally
At my previous work I often experience conversations or discussions in a meeting that would be completely misunderstood, misinterpreted or people would read something personal into what was said and tempers would flare. I find that Danes don’t take things so personally, not only in work life but also outside of it. They speak much more directly and respectfully, but keep the tone neutral. Every word isn’t analysed for another meaning or to find some insult directed towards you.
This has made me realise that while these situations always happen in a work environment, some things are up to ourselves to change, such as taking things too personally. Sometimes it just means that your colleague had a bad day or simply didn’t understand the issue, but nevertheless, what was said was probably not attended to hurt you .
I don’t know if it’s something most common for women and not so much for men, but it was hard for me to not think of work in my previous job, even when I was home. I remember many many sleepless nights, thoughts and worries that came to me at that time and as much as I tried to keep it from affecting me, if I had a bad day at work then it would ruin my whole day. Does this ever happen to you?
But in the Scandinavian way, it is very rare that I’ve ever heard them talking or complaining about work and even less letting ruin their whole mood and day because of a bad situation at work. I’ve heard them being stressed and busy, but not after they finish work. I came to realise that if anything, Scandinavians are really good at relaxing, not just in a hygge way but not taking problems with them from work home as there is a place and time for them there and a place and time for enjoying themselves at home.
Part of the fact that Scandinavians are living a happier life is because of the healthy lifestyle that they surround themselves with. Exercising is something that comes easy as biking to work is one of the most common and practical way of transportation. Scandinavian cuisine and meals are mostly very healthy, but part of a healthy lifestyle is also surrounding yourself with people that you enjoy spending time with. If you want to read about my take on Scandinavian healthy habits to make your life healthier and happier, you can check out my previous post HERE.
I like to think all these little factors that contribute to a healthy lifestyle goes hand in hand with your productivity at work, improves your happiness and helps prevent stress. When you neglect basic healthy habits, you run the risk of being constantly tired and moody, unfocused and more vulnerable to illness.
These are just a few insights that I feel set apart Scandinavians workplaces from others, including the East European ones I grew up with. Of course even Scandinavia has companies where not everything is great and not every employee is happy, but in general I find this is an accurate impression of the typical Scandinavian work environment. How would you like to work here?
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