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Why Denmark Has the Best Work-Life Balance in the World

Fewer work hours, more vacation—and yet they are more productive than most countries.

In most countries, working long hours or until late-night has always been the trend. However, in Denmark, working fewer hours is actually normal. Still, you’d be surprised to know that they are considered more productive than most of countries in the European Union or even the United States. So what’s the catch?

Apparently, Danes prioritize life over work. On average, Danes only spend one-thirds of their time working. They work 37 hours per week and they get a designated lunch break, a minimum five weeks of paid vacation plus extended and paid parental leave, as well as incentives for child care. They are also given the option to work on flexible schedules or to work from home.

Denmark’s model of work-life balance proves time does not determine productivity.

Denmark, which has the reputation of the ‘happiest country in the world’, boasts their healthy work-life balance as a crucial part of Danish culture. And this work-life balance is maintained by three important national beliefs according to Upworthy:

#1 Workers are entrusted to do their job

It seems simple but this belief is the very foundation of their work. Working fewer hours doesn’t mean they do less. Instead of finding ways to pass time until office hours is done, what if employees can go home to their families after finishing their designated work for the day?

There’s also no need for iron-fist managers to keep eye on employees and make sure they do their jobs well. Everyone do their jobs. There’s no need to worry for employees passing their jobs to their junior co-workers.

#2 People are encouraged to value their families.

So what does this got to do with work? In Denmark, it is normal to see family functions, even child care pickups in people’s digital calendars for others to see. There is tax deduction for child care and the government provides pensions and maid services for the elderly.


Meanwhile, school systems are not centered on exams but on learning. The education sector invests in personalized needs of the students that’s why parents are given flexible work hours and option to work from home. With fewer work hours, they get to spend more time with their children. The same values are instilled to the children from a very young age and it is ingrained in them by the time they join the workforce later.

#3 Danes recognize the balance of work and leisure.

In Denmark, they believe that happier workers are better workers. Vacation isn’t some rare commodity that workers can only experience after saving up for almost a year.

According to a study, vacations can make the brain more creative. It also takes people away from stress and health problems thus, making them more productive. Workers in Denmark use their minimum five weeks of paid vacation leave without any social stigma.

As Danish psychotherapist Iben Sandahl said,

“We think everyone has a right to be respected, from a CEO to a janitor. We try to teach our children to focus on the good in themselves and others rather than on status or labels.”

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