This is Part 1 of a five part series discussing the importance of the work environment.  Is it possible to find happiness at work?  Since work consumes so many hours of our life, it is imperative to make it as positive as possible.  Technology has made it possible to extend the normal eight hour work day into many additional hours.  Work has invaded our homes!

Many nations including the United States have extended the staff  hours at work and then have the workers continue to check emails, texts, and even phone calls at home.  This commitment to work also eliminates or reduces vacation time.  Staff will continue to work even if ill regardless of the possible negative impact on other workers. This ultimately leads to burnout and unhappiness at work!

It might be constructive to compare our culture with another culture that has been able to achieve a level of happiness at work.  The Danish have become famous for their achieving arbejdsglæde, which translates to happiness at work.

The old adage of “If you’re enjoying yourself, you’re not working hard enough” is still embraced by many in our culture no matter the industry or profession. Disengagement from work has been polled at 18% in the United States versus 10% in Denmark.  Why the difference?

Here are some of the differences in the work culture:

  • The Danish worker averages 1540 hours per year. They receive six weeks of vacation, several national holidays, and 18 weeks paid maternity leave or 2 weeks paid paternity leave.
  • The United States worker averages 1790 hours per year. They receive two weeks of vacation time and six paid holidays.  Most woman are granted 4 to 6 weeks of maternity leave with the option of additional unpaid leave after using up all vacation time through the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  Fathers have vacation time and FMLA as options in most companies.

Danish workers have the option of receiving unemployment at the rate of 90% pay for two years.  This allows a worker to leave a position without fear of financial ruin.  It also means that companies must focus on the open communication between managers and their staff.  Also staff development in order to retain staff becomes important.

The Danish system is still not perfect and some United States companies have started to amend their vacation policies to allow unlimited part time off.  There are many United States companies attempting to modify the work environment in order to increase staff involvement, retention, and morale.


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