Why Scandinavians have the happiest work culture

Nations, such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark are known for their happy and progressive work culture.


The World Happiness Report by the United Nations always features the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway and Finland as the top rankers every year. Not surprising, because these countries are known for their happy work culture, which is based upon the principles of equality and individuality.

Being located far up in the North, these countries have hardly been impacted by the worst historic periods. Denmark and Norway were occupied by the Nazi Germans during the Second World War, but only for a very short period of time. Other than that, the Scandinavian countries have never been occupied by foreign nations. This has helped them preserve their age-old culture of togetherness and equality.

Janteloven mentality

The Law of Jante or the Janteloven mentality followed in the Scandinavian countries, promotes the idea that individuals shouldn’t think of themselves as being any better than the rest of the community. It emphasises on collective success rather than individual success. The mentality is not about considering oneself any lesser. Instead, it is about encouraging individuals to observe and be sensitive to other people’s values. That is why, people working in Denmark are used to seeing their managers or CEOs washing coffee cups so that the custodian does not have to.

The Jantelov mentality builds a culture of trust and equality at the workplace. Professionals begin trusting one another from the very start, which makes things quite easy for a new employee at the time of joining. Another benefit of this mentality is that it keeps politics in check at the workplace. Not only are people able to express themselves without fear, they also truly mean what they say.

Fika tradition

In some of the companies in Sweden, it is mandatory for employees to sit together and enjoy a cup of coffee with some cakes. ‘Fika’, which roughly translates to drinking coffee, munching sweets and chatting, is an integral part of the Swedish work culture. The Fika tradition is about about getting together, eating good food and meeting good people. It enhances the bond between employees at work, and therefore, boosts productivity.

Short working hours

Firms in Denmark and Sweden support the concept of a six-hour working day. Employees leave for their homes between 3:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. This ensures that they have ample time for themselves and their families. Although still at a nascent stage, the concept is being given a try and some serious thought, which itself is a step in the right direction. Almost a decade ago, Toyota reduced time on its shifts in its service centre on Sweden’s west coast. While the move had no adverse effect on productivity, the profits actually started increasing at a significant pace.

Subsidised day care

Scandinavian countries have to pay very less towards day care expenses for kids. Also, day cares in these nations are considered to be the best in the world. This allows new parents to get back to work as soon as possible and also focus on their job without worrying about their children.

Mandatory vacations

In many parts of the Scandinavian region, because of the flat management in the companies, each and every employee is encouraged to take full five weeks of vacation every year. In countries, such as the US, companies usually only give two weeks of annual vacation. Employees also take some time off during Christmas and Easter celebrations.

Celebrations and recognitions

The flat management structure in Denmark, Norway and Sweden, means that whenever there is a celebration in a company, every employee is part of it. This creates a sense of value in each member of the workforce. It also boosts engagement amongst employees and they tend to remain loyal and stay with the company for a long period of time.

Abiding by these philosophies and policies has helped many big conglomerates and businesses achieve success at the global level. H&M, Carlsberg, Novo Nordisk and Ericsson are some of the big brands and companies in different sectors that have achieved great heights in the business world.

It is time for organisations across the globe to learn from these policies and try them out in their HR management system, to create a better employee experience.


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