Chief Happiness Officer Alexander Kjerulf has published a book entitled ‘Happy Hour is 9 to 5‘. Happy at work? Are you mad? I’m writing at home this morning, while my colleagues are working. I’m happy, make no mistakes. Kjerulf has helped make me happy, and you too – because you can buy his book in paper, as a pdf, or, it’s available for free, on his blog.
Kjerulf, a Dane, figures
…Scandinavians have an advantage over the rest of the world when it comes to happiness at work: Where most other nations are fairly new to the concept of happiness at work, we have a word for it. In Danish, my native language, the word is arbejdsglæde, and while that may look utterly indecipherable to the rest of the world, it’s a concept that is deeply ingrained in Scandinavian work culture and one that most Nordic businesses focus on to a large degree.
Consequently, Scandinavian workers are the happiest in the world. According to a study from 2005, 68% are happy or very happy with their current job, compared with 47% in the UK or even 35% in Belgium1. This is a major factor behind the success of Nordic companies like Nokia, IKEA, Oticon (the world’s largest producer of hearing aids), Carlsberg, Ericsson, Lego, and many others.
Arbejde means work and glæde means happiness, so arbejdsglæde literally translates into work-happiness. In case you’re wondering, it’s pronounced ah-bites-gleh-the. And you thought Fahrvergnügen was a mouthful!
Heh – rød grød med fløde would be my mouthful of choice… but I think there are some points that also contribute to the overall happiness of the Danish workplace. The pay is good. The social services are good – medical and dental etc care. The ‘we think it would be helpful for you to learn to use a computer, here’s one for you to have at home’. Generous leave allowances, including sick leave, domestic leave, holiday leave and well, leave leave it seems. Quality childcare available either free or at economical prices. And the list goes on and on; however, last, and absolutely not least, in Summer, go stand by the harbour in Copenhagen of Friday afternoons and have a beer with pretty much the rest of Copenhagen. All that works for me. Frankly, once the essentials are in place, spending some time finding ways of enjoying work is not a bad thing.
Initially, I thought Kjerulf’s writing would be along the line of how to make xmas day better – my observations of Danish workplaces not leading me to believe work there could be much improved. But it’s more than that. Using a jewellry example, it’s possible to have a bad stone in beautiful setting – and so it is more than possible to have a bad working relationship/atmosphere in what should be a wonderful environment. What Kjerulf offers in his book is tips, tools, and techniques that the average person can introduce to make their workplace a happier place to work in. I’ve had many jobs, and worked in a diverse range of workplace settings. My repeated experience, here and in other countries, has been one of continued amazement as to how much human resource is wasted through ignorance and bad attitude. Management does not know how to listen to, or mine out, the hidden strengths and experiences of their workers. They instead continually, universally, are happy to squander the best resources they’ll ever have as people walk out the door and take the accumulated knowledge and experience with them. When this happens as a nation, we call it a braindrain. It’s rarely – if ever – used to describe a more regional or localised, even company level drain, and yet it happens there every day. Kjerulf may offer a solution to the local braindrain.