The Finnish have not only created an environment that fuels workplace success but also happiness and health.
Each year, on March 20, The International Day of Happiness takes place. It is the day the UN releases its World Happiness Report, which ranks countries by their happiness levels using survey data from over 150 countries. For six years in a row, Finland has ranked No. 1 as the happiest country in the world, according to this World Happiness Report. (FYI, the UK is currently listed as 19th).
In 2022, people across the world were asked to “value their lives today on a 0 to 10 scale, with the worst possible life as a 0”, looking at factors that contribute to social support, life expectancy, generosity, and absence of corruption.
Admittedly, the report relies on a fairly emotionless definition of happiness. Compared with most other countries, objective living circumstances in Finland are very good indeed – the rates of poverty, homelessness, and other forms of material deprivation are low; people have universal and free access to quality education and health care; parental leave is generous and paid holidays are long.
And, as it turns out, Finnish workplace satisfaction is inherently linked to their positive social structure.
Antti Aumo, Head of Invest in Finland from Business Finland, explained: “In Finland, the idea is that a well-functioning welfare state creates the prerequisites for a favourable business environment, enabling companies and individuals to succeed..”
The Finns have also been ahead of the curve when it comes to flexible, remote working. By 2011, Finland was offering the most flexible working schedules on the planet, according to a study for global accounting firm Grant Thornton, with 92% of companies in Finland allowing workers to adapt their hours.
Although much of the world is now catching up to Finland when it comes to flexible working models (partly encouraged by Covid-19), many Finns agree that a key reason flexible working is already so successful for them is a deep-rooted culture of trust.
A recent study found that Finns’ trust in fellow citizens is higher than anywhere else in Europe. The “lost wallet” experiment in 2022 tested the honesty of citizens by dropping 192 wallets in 16 cities around the world. In Helsinki, eleven out of twelve wallets were returned to the owner.
This trust is almost embedded into Finnish workplaces, with staff feeling supported and recognised. They also promote a culture of consensus-based decision making which promotes confidence in institutions.
Finland also has a steadfast focus on work-life balance. Just 4% of employees regularly work 50 hours a week or more, well below the average across the western world, according to OECD figures, and there is a clear understanding that employees have lunch breaks.
This determined approach to work-life balance is linked to a number of factors; from a strong union culture that protects short working hours to the tradition of making time to embrace lakes and forests.
In Finland, people often use their long holidays or weekends to hit the countryside and immerse themselves in nature and the results report increased vitality, wellbeing and a gives employees a sense of personal growth.
Heli Jimenez, Senior Director, International Marketing at Business Finland. “Finland is full of immersive experiences among nature. Our energizing forests, charming lakes, and vibrant archipelago landscapes are all perfect places to relax, unwind and get in touch with your inner happiness.”
There are plenty of learnings we can take from Finland. Their approach to employee satisfaction is certainly not beyond our scope or unrealistic. Of course, their workplaces are supported by their social infrastructure and policies, boosted by low corporate tax rates and a highly educated workforce, but it’s important to acknowledge that the Finns have not only created an environment that fuels success but also happiness and health.
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