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  • Writer's pictureHenriette Johnsen

Work-life balance for expatriates in Denmark!

Exploring the concept of work-life balance in Denmark and its implications for expatriates, this final blogpost in the series on Danish work culture delves into a crucial aspect of modern professional life.


Denmark prides itself on maintaining a healthy work-life balance. According to a 2017 survey conducted by the OECD, only 2% of Danish workers reported regularly working very long hours, a significantly lower percentage compared to the average of 13% in other surveyed countries. This statistic underscores Denmark's leadership in promoting a balanced approach to work.


This article highlights the benefits of Denmark's work-life balance ethos and offers practical advice for expatriates navigating this unique aspect of the Danish work culture.


Work-life balance: weekly working hours in Denmark - also for expatriates!

While not legally mandated, the Danish Welfare Model upholds a 37-hour work week. The majority of employment agreements adhere to this standard by outlining specific job responsibilities rather than strict hourly requirements. This arrangement allows for flexibility, enabling employees to potentially work longer hours during busy periods and fewer hours during slower times.


Individuals are typically afforded a significant level of autonomy in organising their workload and determining their work schedule. Moreover, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals now have the option to work remotely from home, further enhancing flexibility in work arrangements.


Work-life balance: annual leave in Denmark  - also for expatriates!

Under Danish legislation, individuals are entitled to 25 days of annual leave, equivalent to five weeks. Additionally, some employees may be eligible for a sixth week of holiday, depending on the terms of their employment contract.


Work-life balance: parental leave in Denmark - also for expatriates!

Parents of newborns are entitled to a total of 48 weeks of leave following the birth of their child. Specific guidelines determine the allocation of this leave between parents and the corresponding compensation. It is advisable to consult your employer for detailed information regarding these regulations.


Work-life balance: consequences for expatriates

Previously, I held a position as an accountant at a now-defunct accounting firm which provided one of the most favorable working environments I have encountered. During that period, although the law stipulated five weeks of annual leave, the company went above and beyond by offering an additional week of paid summer holiday if three of the five weeks were scheduled in July.


This arrangement allowed us to enjoy a continuous four-week break from work. The rationale behind this initiative was to ensure that employees were well-rested and prepared for the busy autumn season, rather than idling in the office during a quiet July. Ultimately, it proved to be a mutually beneficial arrangement for all parties involved.


However, will that always be the case?


While the concept of having more free time is appealing to many individuals, expatriates often find themselves in an unfamiliar situation that requires both time and a shift in mindset to adapt to. If you are accustomed to prioritising work over other aspects of life, it becomes crucial to learn how to prioritise living over working.


Consider this as a chance to determine how you wish to structure your life, taking into account the additional time available for yourself, your partner, and your family. Is it possible to rediscover hobbies and interests from your earlier years? Aim to reconnect with activities that previously brought you satisfaction and contentment. Strive to incorporate these pursuits into your routine instead of idling away the time or being preoccupied with work-related concerns.


Should you encounter challenges and experience feelings of guilt due to a decreased workload, consider reframing the situation as a beneficial act for your employer. A content, well-rested, and balanced employee is significantly more productive than one who is stressed and overworked. Moreover, prioritising your well-being contributes to improved overall health, resulting in reduced absenteeism and decreased costs for your employer related to sick leave.


For individuals with a partner and/or family, it is essential to recognise the importance of spending quality time together. Young children greatly benefit from the presence of their parents, as it positively impacts their attachment style, trust in the world, and confidence. Parents who dedicate time and energy to involve their children in household tasks, participate in school or extracurricular activities, read stories to them, or simply take a leisurely stroll to feed the ducks in the park contribute significantly to their overall well-being.


Best wishes as you navigate the additional time at your disposal. While it may present its challenges, embracing this opportunity can bring a sense of fulfillment and enhance the overall quality of your life.


First published August 2022, revised June 2024.



Balancing coffee cups. Work-life balance

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