29 May 2014

Job satisfaction: learning from the Danes

Workers in Denmark are the most satisfied nation in Europe, so how can we learn from them and improve job satisfaction in the UK?

Workers in Denmark are the most satisfied nation in Europe, so how can we learn from them and improve job satisfaction in the UK?

According to research published by Eurobarometer, 94% of workers in Denmark are satisfied with their working conditions. Austrians and Belgians came in a close second and third in terms of workforce happiness. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Greece was at the other end of the scale, with just 38% happy with their working conditions and a paltry 16% agreeing that their country was a good place to work.

What makes Danish workers so satisfied?

In general, Danish workers benefit from:

  • Good working hours. The survey found that 91% were satisfied with their working hours and they spend less hours working than the EU average. Employers also tend to be more flexible than many other EU countries.
  • A tradition of life-long training and development. Employees are encouraged to continue learning throughout their working life, which keeps their skills high. It also enables them to be more autonomous, with 95% being satisfied with the level of autonomy they have at work.
  • Generous unemployment benefits. Unemployment insurance can pay them more than three quarters of their original salary for up to two years, which means they don’t have to worry about being tied to a job they hate.

Last but not least, they have their own word for happiness at work – arbejdsglæde – that says it all doesn’t it?

It’s not all about the salary

While salary is important, the amount you pay your staff doesn’t appear to be the overriding factor when it comes to job satisfaction. We’ve mentioned this before, but a new survey supports this and adds weight to the reasons why Danish workers are generally happy.

The research by office supplies company Viking found that social events, flexible working and company updates are just as important as a pay rise. It revealed that fewer than 60% of UK workers are satisfied at work, but in companies where workers had regular team outings (only 5% of those surveyed), their workplace satisfaction was much higher, at 85%. Similarly, satisfaction ratings were higher than the average if workers were encouraged to take training courses (22% higher) or if their company regularly shared and discussed information with them (15% higher).

It also found that more than 1/3 of employees are unhappy for more than half of the working day and that the top reasons were not:

  • being happy with their training and development – 51%
  • having enough challenging work to do - 45%

They worked out that spending £266 on training and £190 on outings per employee could increase happiness by up to 35%.

Increasing satisfaction in your workers

  • Offer them training and development. While this can cost money, you’ll also end up with more satisfied and more capable workers as a result, which could increase their productivity.
  • Offer flexible working arrangements or benefits like a day off for their birthday (like we do at Bizspace).
  • Make sure they’re involved and take ownership of their own development.
  • Keep them informed of what’s happening with the company on a wider scale.
  • Take them out for a team lunch or organise work outings.