What reading "The Year of Living Danishly" taught me
In 2015 Helen Russell shared with us her journey of moving too and living Danishly in her critically acclaimed ‘The Year if Living Danishly. Uncovering the Secrets if the World’s Happiest Country’. I personally was interested in reading this having recently been approached a role in Denmark and to understand my ex-father-in-law, a Dane. His approach to life and circumstances at times have seemed alien to me. However, after reading this book, I wonder how he puts up with some of the British ways. After reading this book, there is a lot we could learn from the Danish for me the most prolific at this point in my life is its Work-Life- Balance. If one day I was to own my own company, I would like to try and implement the Danish approach to Work to my Workforce. The key to its success, productivity and effectiveness.
In the Novel, Helen describes her husband’s Work at LEGOLAND and her various discussions with experts. The one thing that stands out within the Danish workplace and in Denmark is the level of trust they have in others. It is Helen’s husbands guiding towards the writings of the 1930’s Author Sandemouse of how to integrate into the Danish Workplace which struck a chord, making me think that how some of my work experiences may have been very different and verged on enjoyable if Jante’s Law had been present in the Workplace;
1. You’re not to think you are anything special.
2. You’re not to think you are as good as we are.
3. You’re not to think you are smarter than we are.
4. You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than we are.
5. You’re not to think you know more than we do.
6. You’re not to think you are more important than we are.
7. You’re not to think you are good at anything.
8. You’re not to laugh at us.
9. You’re not to think anyone cares about you.
10. You’re not to think you can teach us anything.
Within the Workplace an 11th unspoken rule also appears to apply
11. Don’t put up with presentism.
These can all be boiled down to one sentiment: you are no better than anyone else here.
In the UK you are expected to be their late, work hard and be seen, this is something I have been used to over the last ten years since working in Contract management. If your not in the office for more than 8 hours, then your obviously not doing your job. An interesting situation for a single parent. I have had colleagues who work all hours, are seen to be there but then leave you wondering what have they been doing all this time, they are not efficient and don’t manage their time. As someone who always had a portfolio of Projects I had no choice to manage my time and be efficient. I was expected to put in a 50 hour week minimum, if I was not working in the office, I was working at home in the evening, at weekends or when travelling. In Denmark, the average working week is around 38 hours a week, with the working day finishing around 4pm, with an earlier finish on a Friday. Staying late is more likely to get a leaflet about time management and efficiency in Denmark than a reputation for hardwork and being the perfect employee.
One interesting thing that comes across and has been my experience in both Norway and Denmark when working with colleagues or involved in negotations is that lunch is a communual affair. Everyone goes and everyone talks. Other than negotiations and training I have very rarely eaten communally with my colleagues. In my current role we do thie periodically and in a previous Norwegian company we all used to have lunch together a ciuple of days a week and this was provided by the Compnay. This allowed for stronger bonds between colleagues no matter the level or senioroity, no one is better than anyone else. For me this was a breath of fresh air, I have worked in many organisations with people who believe they are superior and are not prepared to listen to others. In Denmark it appears to be about trust and openness. Somthing I have found lacking in many areas of English Society. For now i breathe, put one foot in front of the other and repeat, until I can make the necessary changes.