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  • Writer's pictureHenriette Johnsen


This last blogpost in the series of Danish work culture will explore the concept of work-life-balance and its consequences for expats.

Denmark likes to pride itself with a good work-life-balance; and, according to a survey conducted by the OECD in 2017, with only 2% regulary working very long hours, Denmark ranks better than any other surveyed country where an average of 13% of all respondents reported working very long hours.

Here is a brief account of some of the advantages of the work-like-balance focus in Denmark - alongside some tips for coping with these:

Weekly working hours

Though not protected by law, the Danish Welfare Model supports a 37 hours' work week. Most employment contracts honour this in the sense that you are employed to complete certain work related tasks meaning you might work more in some periods, but have the freedom to work less in others. It's likely you will experience a great degree of freedom in planning your workload and working hours - and following the corona pandemic, you may also have amble opportunity to be working remote from home.

Annual leave

According to Danish law, everyone has the right to 25 days of holidays a year; which is equivalent to five weeks.

Some also enjoy what is called a 6th holiday week depending on the contract under which you are employed.

Maternity and paternity leave

Parents with newborns enjoy a combined 48 weeks of leave following their child's birth; there are rules in place for how this can be split between parents and how much you are paid during those weeks, so check with your employer.

Consequences for expats

Long time ago, I was employed as an accountant in a no longer existing accountancy company - for many reasons, one of the best working environments I have ever experienced. Back then, the law granted us five weeks of annual leave, but the company generously gave us an extra week of paid summer holidays if we planned three of our five weeks in July - meaning we could enjoy four consecutive weeks off work. The thinking behind this was that the company was much better off having well-rested employees ready to embark on the busy autumn rather than having us sitting in the office during a quiet July. A win-win for everyone!

Or is it?

Most of us like the idea of more time on our hands; but for many expats, it's an unusual situation which can take time and a change in mindset to adjust to. If you have been used to living to work, it becomes of key importance to figure out how to be working to live.

View it as an opportunity to figure out how you would like to live your life given the extra time to yourself, your partner, and family! Can you re-connect with hobbies and interests from your formative years? Try to re-engage with what used to bring you joy and happiness. Make an effort to implement these into your life rather than spending the time doing nothing or worrying about not working.

If you find it difficult and perhaps even feel guilt for not working as much as you have been used to, try thinking of it as doing your employer a favour: A well-rested and happy, balanced employee is of much more use than a stressed, over-worked one. Furthermore, it's good for your overall health meaning less time off work and less expenses for your employer spent on sick leave.

If you have a partner and/or a family, remind yourself that it's good for your relationship to have time together. Young children wish for nothing more than having their parents around all the time; it's good for their attachment style, their trust in the world, and for their confidence to have parents around who have time and energy to involve them in household tasks, engage in their school or extra curricular activities, read them a story or just take a stroll to feed the ducks in the park.

Good luck with having the extra time on your hands - it's not as easy as it sounds, but can be very fulfilling and add extra quality to your life.

Balancing coffee cups


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