I have been reading a book called “The year of living Danishly” by Helen Russell, about a couple who decide to move to rural Denmark for a year. I was attracted to the book because the Danish have been regarded for some time as the happiest people in the world and I’m interested in how work impacts on their health and wellbeing. It seems I’m not alone in my interest as books and articles promoting ‘hygge’, a Danish concept that is said to underpin a happy attitude to life seem to be very popular currently!
The book is a good read and there have been lots of times when what I’ve read has made me smile and laugh as Helen and her partner navigate themselves through Danish life. Without giving away what’s in the book, she finds evidence of why we will probably never achieve the same levels of happiness here in the UK, but it does gives us some clues about how we might want to change our attitude to work.
Helen’s book talks about the Danish work culture and the flexicurity model that is followed which gives Danish workers job security and a safety net, if they become ill or are made redundant. While we are culturally too far away from the Danish benefits system that provides between 80-90% of your pay for up to 52 weeks and has great flexibility in changing jobs, shouldn’t we be looking a little more Danishly at how we consider work from both an employer and an employee point of view?
As I was completing reading the book, two reports dropped into my inbox, both from the CIPD. The first one said that poor financial wellbeing was beginning to affect people’s performance in the workplace and the second made the point that our flexible labour market may be beginning to constrain people in low quality jobs.
Neither of the reports makes for pretty reading and combined with the recent research that many fathers want to downshift to less stressful roles as they can’t balance work and home life, it looks like there is an emerging problem in the UK. A problem of what employees want and how that matches up with their time spent at work.
You could argue that the issues identified in the recent research all have an impact on employees’ productivity in one way or another, which is particularly relevant in Sheffield as it has been reported that the city has the lowest productivity for all of the large cities in England.
So going back to the book I read – could making a move to living a little bit more Danishly have an impact? And as financial security appears to be near the top of the list, is there something that employers can do?
Sick pay insurance maybe one answer, but it appears not to be on employer’s radar, perhaps because this type of insurance product appears to thin on the ground in this country. This is something that I have been researching and have found it is not too expensive to provide a scheme where employees who are ill could get 50% of their pay for a set period of time. We see many people who go to work when they are ill as they can’t afford to be off work because there is no company sick pay scheme. The result is people who aren’t being productive and depending on their illness sometimes affecting the health and wellbeing of their co-workers.
This is an important issue to consider as changes in the economy mean that the financial pressures employees are currently experiencing are likely to persist or worsen in the years to come. Having a scheme that provides some sort of financial safety net must be a good thing as it appears that financial wellbeing can have an effect on people’s overall health and productivity at work. Therefore rather than looking at isolated issues employers need to look at the way in which financial support can be offered within the wider context of how they provide support over a wide range of health and wellbeing issues.