Be More Like Denmark: Work Smart, Be Happy

“Let’s be more Denmark!” is one of my battle cries in the office. Why, you ask? Well, when I and some of my colleagues are working up to 60 hours a week, the 35-40 hour working week in Denmark seems like a dream. But what’s the difference?

Working in Denmark

Working smarter, not harder, seems to be the mantra. This means working more effectively and being more focused for periods of 55 minutes, followed by a 5-minute break—and with only 30 minutes for lunch, spent in the office with colleagues.

A normal Danish working week is from Monday to Friday and office hours are usually between 8am and 5pm. Women work an average of 35 hours a week compared to 41 hours a week for men.

Family is very important to Danes. As a result, the family life of employees is respected by Danish employers. It is not uncommon for many Danish workplaces to give you the opportunity to adjust your working hours based on your family’s needs. It is also quite usual for Danes to live close to their place of work, which means that less time is spent on commuting.

With a few changes, work could become our favourite place to be!

What does Boxfish do?

Firstly, through observation and then consultation, we found that the staff were being distracted by office chit-chat and constant access to mobile phones during core hours. This is a common problem across all office-based businesses, but as an SME we do not have the luxury of spare capacity.

The first action we took was to increase our employees’ holiday entitlements. Yes, you read that right! Because we felt that changes in work practices could feel punitive, we wanted to show that any changes would also benefit our staff. As a result, staff agreed to our proposed changes.

We then changed our office routine to be the following:

  1. 55-minute working sessions (with no use of phones) followed by a 5-minute break. This resulted in an extra 30 minutes of break time per day, plus 30 minutes for lunch.
  2. Standing meetings.
  3. A new system for planning the upcoming working week. This included grouping similar tasks, to avoid time-wasting caused by switching between jobs.
  4. Everyone leaves the office at the same time (including the Directors) and there is no expectation of working overtime.

What's in the future?

We will be monitoring our new productivity plan for the next six months. We will then consider further changes for improving the work-life balance of our staff.

For instance, we are considering allowing our staff to have one Friday off per month, which would be organised through a rota. We are also investigating ways to reduce working hours, to allow a 4pm daily finish whilst keeping a rotating skeleton team on-site until 5.30pm.

We hope that our holistic approach to “being more Denmark” will continuously improve our productivity and process. That’s our ongoing Viking challenge!


Article by Steve de la Rosa, Managing Director


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