As an American, I have grown up hearing, time and time again, the indication that the harder you work, the more successful you become. Though I am not arguing this theory, I believe we often measure “hard work” with the wrong measurements – in particular, time.
I, like so many other Americans, began becoming acquainted with 40+ hour work weeks at age 15. My first job started the summer I turned 15 as a stock boy at the local grocery store. A normal shift was 8 hours and we would work 5 sometimes even 6 days a week. This never seemed odd to me as almost every adult I knew worked over 40 hours a week as well. It was work; and work demanded at least 40 hours a week (and often a lot more). Or so I thought until I arrived here in Denmark.
I have only been living in Denmark for a couple of months and have already realized that the Danes value their personal time more so than we do in the U.S. The average work week in Denmark is 37.5 hours and no more. It also soon came apparent that Danes like to keep their work at the office in order to keep a healthy balance of work and personal life. Being accustomed to living in a place where you can literally purchase anything you want at any time of the day thanks to an endless variety of 24-Hour stores, I was shocked to see stores on the streets closing around 6 p.m. and most not even opening on days such as Sundays. It is no wonder to me why the Danes have been considered amongst the leaders in work-life balance.
According to the OECD, and average Dane will work about 1,546 hours in a given year. In America, we work about 1,790 hours annually. With numbers this big, the difference doesn’t seem so evident. But let’s break it down, shall we? The typical Dane works 244 hours less than the American each year. That is over 30 8-hour working days. A whole month that Americans work more than Danes! This is a whole month that Danes can spend however they want; in turn, creating a healthy work-life balance. With Denmark being one of the happiest countries in the world, it’s obvious that healthy work-life balances are a direct contribution to the Dane’s happiness.
The amount of hours worked at your job is not the sole reason for whether you are happy or not but it is a vital factor of your work-life balance and can consequently create happiness. It is also becoming more evident that having a happy work-life balance shows in the office as well. Alexander Kjerulf, one of the world’s leading experts in workplace happiness, shows in his book ‘Happy Hour is 9-5’ that being happy and having a healthy workplace balance can lead to more efficient work in the office.
Yes, hard work can make you more successful, but we must realize that it isn’t the amount of hours you put in but what you are able to do within the hours you work. Working on creating a healthy work-life balance will help create happiness; thus, a more successful work day. Success isn’t measured in hours anymore; it’s measured in happiness.
To find out more ways to create happiness in your work place, check out Alexander Kjerulf’s book ‘Happy Hour is 9-5’ and start creating a better work-life balance for yourself.