How European Countries Achieve Great Work Life Balance

As the world is becoming ever more interconnected, an increasing number of companies are showing the positive effects of globalisation. Having offices across the world means that the companies are diversifying their office culture, with the ability to work across cultural barriers being vital to a successful and a harmonious office.

Many emerging European workplace practices have been geared towards helping employees achieve a greater work-life balance, and have begun working well enough to have been adopted across the continent. This has been seen in the U.K, with practices like reduced working hours and flexible working opportunities slowly becoming more prevalent.

Here is a roundup of some of the most notable practices that are spreading across Europe.

Giving staff more time off work

One way that a number of European countries are providing their residents with a great work-life balance is through offering more days of paid holiday days. Whilst the U.K only offers its workers a maximum of 28 days paid leave, other nations are far more generous. Spanish and Swedish workers are both entitled to 36 days of paid holiday, while those from Austria, Finland and France receive 35.

Beyond this, many European nations have also endeavoured to cut the working hours of residents in order to further allow them an improved work-life balance. Whilst a small handful of British businesses have also followed this notion, 13% of the working population still work very long hours  (defined as being over 50 hours per week). Yet, in Denmark, only 2% of employees regularly work very long hours and in Norway, this is only the case for 3% of the working population.

Sweden also made worldwide headlines when they began a two year trial of a 6 hour working day in 2016, although this was ultimately scrapped. More time off has been proven to have a multitude of benefits, such as improving health and increasing productivity.

Flexible working opportunities

Another way European countries are achieving a great work-life balance is by encouraging flexible working. This is a trend that the U.K have really got behind, and for those of you lucky to be working in the booming startup scene, you may be used to working from coffee shops, co-working spaces or even your own bed.

Co-working spaces are proving particularly popular, with a vast number being opened up in recent years. Sites like Makerversity in London, Patchwork in Paris and Factory in Berlin give entrepreneurs the chance to escape the confines of an office and collaborate over a cup of coffee or two. Many feature cafes, gardens and rooms to leisurely watch TV or play a game of pool, allowing workers to switch from work to play.

This is not just exclusive to entrepreneurs however; many countries are striving to provide all types of workers with more adaptable working opportunities. For example, nations like Sweden and the Netherlands have adopted unique policies of flexible working arrangements, with men being encouraged to work from home to increase their participation in housework and the upbringing of children. This not only addresses a work-life imbalance, but the gender imbalance as well.

Dedicated break times

Set break times are another fantastic way to achieve an effective work-life balance, with the Swedish concept of fika a brilliant example of this. Fika has the basic meaning of “to have coffee”, but has gone beyond simply grabbing a drink to becoming an essential part of Swedish life.

Fika gives workers the space in which to savour time, either with friends or alone, providing workers with the chance to slow down their hectic day for a while and appreciate the good things in life. It now also appears that the concept is going global, with a number of cafes that offer fika popping up across the world.

Much like having more time off work, taking dedicated break time away from their desk can provide workers with a number of benefits. For example, research by computer scientist and psychological professor Alex Pentland concluded that scheduling regular coffee breaks enhanced staff productivity by 10-15%, and also led to a 10% rise in employee satisfaction.

Nap bars

That’s right, the quirky concept of nap bars are now emerging throughout Europe. Unsurprisingly, considering its love of midday siestas, Spain have led the way. The country’s first nap bar was opened in Madrid in the summer 2017. Situated in Azca, the financial district of the city, Siesta & Go allows weary workers to pay a small fee to use one of their 19 beds for a convenient recharge of their batteries.

Similar bars have launched in various other locations across Europe, including London, with Pop and Rest recently opening its doors to the public. This is a well-needed addition to the capital’s corporate culture, especially when you consider that Londoners are the most sleep deprived people in the U.K. The benefits gained from a nap at work are again considerable; a study by NASA showed that a mere 26 minute nap can boost productivity by 34%, and increase alertness by 54%.

With the multitude of benefits that have been attributed to a greater work-life balance, it is no wonder that moves have been made to guarantee this for workers. Such efforts across Europe has created a domino effect, inspiring a number of nations to re-assess how employees should spend their time at work.

Charlotte Giver

Charlotte is the founder and editor-in-chief at Your Coffee Break. With a background in PR working in Los Angeles and Barcelona, Charlotte has been working hard running Your Coffee Break from the YCB HQ in London’s Covent Garden for the past 4 years. Dried mangos, Starbucks and runs through Hyde Park get this Londoner through the day.

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