Scandinavia has a lot going for it. Between Sweden, Denmark and Norway, you’ve got the World’s Happiest Nations, the countries with the best work-life balance, clean energy, fjords and fika. And that’s just the tip of the icebe… glacier (Norway has a casual 1600 of these).
When the opportunity to visit Scandinavia with The Travel Project presented itself, the first thing I did was dive into Instagram to ‘see’ the places I’d soon visit. Little did I know, while exploring Scandinavia with Contiki, I’d re-discover the importance of work-life balance by seeing it first-hand.
Short on time? Let me give you the one-word run down of work-life balance Scandinavian style;
Denmark – flexibility
Norway – nature
Sweden – fika
Back home in Melbourne, Australia, I spend my time spinning stories as a PR guy for one of the country’s biggest tech companies. I love what I do, but it means the lines between work and life can get a little blurred and like many Aussies, I’m can be guilty of losing my balance.
Let’s start with Denmark, for no other reason than it was the first place on the trip… but to be honest, the Danes probably have it figured out better than anyone.
According to the OECD Better Life Index, Denmark has the best work-life balance of any other country surveyed.
In fact, it’s reported they spend two-thirds of their day (16 hours) enjoying leisurely pursuits (I’m including sleeping and eating here).
Even the official Danish website promotes work-life balance. Some facts:
- Danes enjoy a high degree of flexibility at work – often being able to choose when they start their working day and having the flexibility of working from home.
- The lunch break is often at a designated time each day, enabling colleagues to interact and eat together, thus getting away from their desks.
- There is a minimum 5 weeks’ paid holiday for all wage earners.
Wander around the picture perfect streets of Copenhagen for a day and you can actually understand what it all means in practice. The Danes are happy; they’re cycling, smiling, seem completely un-rushed and they spend A LOT of time socializing. Work is important, but not at the expense of life.
They say money doesn’t make you happy… unless you’re in Norway. The super (oil) rich Scandinavian country is mega happy but they’re also pretty good at balance.
In all honesty, I spent the whole time in Norway distracted by Fjords, Glaciers and the insanely beautiful Norwegian landscape, but I think this is the reason why.
Norwegian’s just can’t resist getting out and being with nature. Even Oslo, the nation’s capital, is surrounded by forests and fjords, both of which we got to explore on a Viking biking tour of the city. Little wonder it recently won the European Green Capital Award for 2019!
How can anything be wrong in a country where every day at around 11am people pause to enjoy a late morning coffee and pastries? I seriously need to suggest fika as a new tradition at my workplace.
Much like its Scandinavian neighbours, it’s little traditions like this (as well as incredible benefits programs) which ensure the Swedes are living their best life.
I went to Scandinavia with The Travel Project in search of quaint streets, amazing architecture, awe inspiring landscapes and breathtaking fjords, but I came home with a new appreciation for what work-life balance really is and how easily it can be achieved.
Maybe next time I’m trapped in the office late it won’t be because I’m chasing a deadline, but instead conjuring up my next adventure… just don’t tell my boss!
Phil Mahoney travelled to Scandinavia with Contiki as part of The Travel Project.