How to Achieve Sustainable Work-Life Balance – Lessons from the Happy Danes

June 10, 201610:29 am2275 views

Denmark is once again voted the happiest country in the world by the United Nations – a large part of which is explained by a healthy balance between work and personal life. The Happy Danes study could reveal insights on improving workplace happiness in Singapore.

Denmark is ranked the happiest place on earth according to the United Nations’ World Happiness Report 2016. In comparison, while Singapore is the happiest nation in Asia, it ranked 22nd in the same report.

In fact, Denmark has consistently topped the happiness index in past studies like the OECD survey and the Euro barometer.  The reasons behind Denmark’s high levels of happiness are explained in ‘The Happy Dane’, a comprehensive study conducted by the Danish Happiness Research Institute.

Commenting on Singapore’s position in the World Happiness Report, Meik Wiking, CEO of Denmark’s Happiness Research Institute noted that the lion city has performed extremely well on factors such as GDP per capital. However, it achieved lower scores in terms of social support compared to the top ranking countries.

Encouraging work-life balance

For the Danes, healthy work-life balance remains a central tenet in the enjoyment of life. Flexible working conditions and strong social support networks, have not only put Denmark at the top of the international equality league table, they have also contributed to a high standard of living.

In the Danish context, a healthy work-life balance typically entails flexibility, autonomy and balance. According to Statistics Denmark, 25 per cent of Danish wage earners are empowered to decide on their working hours while 17 per cent of them are actively carrying out a proportion of their work at home.

The flexible working hours and the option to work from home help the Danes manage their personal lives more effectively, reducing the stress and frustration of everyday life. Seven out of 10 Danes continue to enjoy their work even if they have become economically independent.

According to the World Happiness Report, many people sacrifice aspects of family life in order to raise income or achieve personal success. These lead to work-life imbalance, which is often a major source of stress in families. Reducing this stress would require a change in workplace culture and government policies, as well as more care services to support working families.

Improving employee motivation

The benefits of work-life balance go beyond happiness. In today’s highly competitive and increasingly stressful work environment, the ability to attract, motivate and retain employees has become a top priority.

A happy and satisfied workforce has a measurable impact on organisational profitability – a connection highlighted in the World Happiness Report. Employees who experience high levels of job satisfaction are more productive at work and less likely to call in sick.

Happy employees are also more likely to generate and share new ideas and create greater cooperation among co-workers and with customers. They are more likely to be rated highly by supervisors and therefore perform better at work in terms of results and earnings. Ultimately, greater satisfaction among employees is a good predictor of organisational productivity, performance and success.

“Given Singapore’s strong work ethics and affluence, there is potential for both government and corporations to pay greater attention on work-life balance to achieve a happier nation and motivated workforce,”adds Wiking.

Denmark’s Ambassador to Singapore, Her Excellency Berit Basse observes, “As research has shown that 40 per cent of our well-being is determined by our daily activities, 50 per cent by our genes, and only 10 per cent by our circumstances, happiness is to a certain extent a matter of choice and mindset. Danish society has successfully enabled individuals to develop and flourish by fostering a culture and framework conditions that allow for influence and fulfillment in peoples’ personal and professional lives. I hope this can be of inspiration to Singapore.”


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