Denmark consistently scores highly as one of the most attractive countries to work in the world.
As recently as 2016, it topped the so-called Global Workforce Happiness Index, a survey conducted by leading employer branding company Universum that asked 200,000 young professionals in 57 markets about their job satisfaction.
And according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Denmark has a better work-life balance than any other country surveyed.
Only 2 percent of employees regularly work very long hours, compared with the OECD average of 13 percent. There is no national legislation in Denmark on the length of the working week – although the vast majority of collective bargaining agreements stipulate a 37-hour week.
For companies such as ours, international employees play a pivotal role in Rambøll’s global activities and ambitions. Some 75 percent of our revenue is earned outside Denmark, and the expertise and knowledge of our international employees is fundamental to our strategy of remaining globally competitive.
Working in Denmark as a foreigner has many immediate benefits. As experienced professionals from Germany and Scotland respectively, we are well placed to realise the advantages of working in an international environment – both for us as employees and our company.
Much has been made of Denmark’s celebrated work-life balance and rightly so. It consistently rates on top when it comes to juggling the demands of a career with life outside work. Flexible working hours and generous vacation entitlements mean not just more time to spend with friends or family, but also help improve motivation and efficiency at work. This is borne out by the fact the Danes are among the most productive workforces in Europe. A distinct lack of hierarchy is also noticeable when you work in Denmark, with a great deal of parity in the workplace.
Everyone is considered equal, regardless of how small their role or inexperienced they are. This results in a much more autonomous working environment and little micromanagement. Employees are trusted and empowered to perform well or take initiative in meeting challenges.
This high degree of autonomy stems from the infamous ‘Jante Law’ – where those who think they are better than others are frowned upon. In the workplace this translates as not being looked down on by your boss and feeling valued as an equal member of a team regardless of your role.
The Danes’ attitude to work is also reflected in their attitudes to other areas of their life, where concerns for the environment, civic and political engagement, education, and social life – as well as a welfare state that is the envy of the world – rank highly.
The advantages of working in Denmark as a foreigner are also reciprocal. We believe that the expertise and skill-sets of employees from abroad are vital for companies like Rambøll who are increasingly expanding into more and more international markets.
Companies need a workforce with profiles that can demonstrate an aptitude for working internationally.
Furthermore, different countries focus on different things. A traffic engineer from China, for example, will likely have more experience working with densely populated areas than a traffic engineer from Denmark. Likewise, a Danish urban planner may have more expertise in climate resiliency than his Indian counterpart.
What are the challenges? While it’s true that anti-foreigner rhetoric can seem to dominate the Danish media, our experience in an international company such as Rambøll suggests that all are welcome. Put simply, we need to work together to make the company a success. And they say the Danes can sometimes be difficult to get to know after hours. But put in some effort and you will be rewarded with life-long friendships.
For us, something is not rotten in the state of Denmark.