Danish Workplace Culture
Working in Denmark requires an understanding of the Danish workplace culture to avoid confusing situations. Work culture of course depends on the company you work for, however, there are some specifics that seem to characterize the experiences of internationals working here.
Below we have described some of the most common traits.
Flat structure and informality
Most Danish companies have a flat structure with short distance between managers and workers. Everyone has the opportunity to share his opinion and offer suggestions. However, your boss still makes all the final decisions but his or her door is open to all employees at any time. Danes are on first name basis with all their colleagues and even their superiors. As a student worker or intern, you are also expected to use people’s first names, just as others will refer to you by your first name. Titles are rarely used.
Denmark prides itself on having a healthy work-life balance. The Danish welfare model, with its flexible work conditions and social support networks, including maternity leave and childcare facilities, not only puts Denmark at the top of the international equality league table, but also contributes to a generally high standard of living. Danes work 1563 hours a year and enjoy a high degree of flexibility at work – often being able to choose when they start their workday and having the flexibility of working from home.
The official workweek is 37 hours and overtime is usually compensated financially or with time off instead. They also have lunch break that is at a designated time each day, enabling colleagues to interact and eat together, thus getting away from their desks.
Even though the majority of Danes are fluent in English, and many organizations have English as a corporate language, the lunch breaks and small talk within the company are always in Danish. You may feel isolated if your colleagues are talking Danish and forgetting to switch to English. Learning Danish and being able to understand the basic conversations can be key in order for you to feel more integrated in the workplace. Moreover, by learning and talking Danish you show interest and appreciation of the Danish culture.
Danish people are often involved in social activities at work. Most companies have a set calendar of social events to which everyone is invited. Such events might be: Christmas parties, summer outings, cake on Fridays, etc. and almost everyone participates in these events.
As much as Danes prioritize and appreciate social activities at work, they tend to keep their work life and their own social life separate. In many workplaces, it is not so common to be close friends with colleagues and to socialize with them outside working hours. Danes tend to leave work and go home to spend time with family and friends.
Books about Danish culture
If you are curious and you want to know more about working in Denmark and the Danish workplace culture, you can find interesting books written by Dagmar Fink here
‘’The Worktrotter's Guide to Denmark’’
is a practical step-by-step instruction for living and working in Denmark. This book helps when making a decision to move to Denmark and is invaluable for after your move. It is built on the first-hand experience of at least 40 expats + 30 Danes and will save you time, nerves and money, by doing things right from the start.
Read more here
‘’Business-Dances with Danes’’
is all about the DOs and DON'Ts in Danish workplace culture. This book explains the background of social norms in Denmark and provides aids to “decipher” the codes of social behavior.It is built on the first-hand experience of many Danes and 32 international interviewees.
Read more here
''Cultural Intelligence for Stone-Age Brains''
is an easy-to-read and practical book written by Dennis Nørmark. With specific examples, funny anecdotes and thorough research, he gives a solid tool for collaboration and co-existence. First and foremost about encounters with Danes, but he also gives examples from the whole world about how we can take control of our most primitive instincts and turn cultural problems into opportunities.
Read more here