Achieving work-life balance or working styles in Denmark and Japan

The key to Danish work styles is the perspective of employees as "users" and digitalization. We will also consider the cultural background in order to find hints for improving Japan's long working hours.


・Short working hours. In Denmark, asynchronous ways of working to reduce waste, such as not holding unnecessary meetings, are progressing.・“Trust in employees” is an important factor

・It is important to review processes, such as process automation and paper digitization.

・Awareness that employees are “users”

・Attitude to optimize work

The topic today is ways of working.

How are we able to achieve short working hours?

In Denmark, the average annual working hours according to an OECD survey in 2022 was 1,363 hours, which is about 300 hours different from Japan's 1,607 hours. For example, in one article, there was information that the rush hour for getting home is around 4pm (or around 3pm on Fridays).

What is the reason behind Denmark's short working hours? What I feel is that an asynchronous way of working that eliminates waste, such as eliminating unnecessary meetings, is progressing.
When I interviewed Danish companies for a survey, I found that some companies had a rule that employees were allowed to leave the meeting if they felt it was unnecessary. In this company, you are allowed to leave if you feel that you cannot contribute at your own discretion. I feel that Denmark has a higher level of awareness of punctuality and organizational culture than Japan.

Is Japan's work style reform effective?

On the other hand, I feel that many of Japan's work style reforms are abstract initiatives, and no concrete measures have been considered. Regular meetings may be shortened by reducing the number of people. "Trust in employees" is also an important element. You can trust your employees' abilities, set what needs to be done by when, and let them do the rest.

During the coronavirus pandemic, there was an increase in working from home, and some people said they were able to finish work faster (by concentrating on work). One of the reasons for Japan's long working hours may be the analog paper culture. In Denmark, many companies are promoting digitalization in the workplace as well. I feel it is important to review processes, such as automating processes and digitizing paper.

Work style and design

Furthermore, what comes before digitalization is design. In Denmark, there is a sense that employees are ``users'' (although it is difficult to say that all of them are able to do this). As a result, there are moves to make processes and apps easier for employees to use.
I feel that in many countries, including Japan, there is still a view towards employees that "this is work." I think one of the reasons why Japan's digitalization is lagging behind is that the current situation is top-down, with upper management unable to intervene in new systems.
It is also important not to lose sight of what we are trying to achieve through digitalization. We believe that by increasing efficiency and productivity, we can also improve the way our employees work.

Work life balance

Also, changing the way you work will improve your work-life balance. In Japan, due to cultural differences, there is a saying that people have to put up with work, but in Denmark it is common (in a good sense) to not put up with work. I feel that there are cultural differences, such as the freedom to set your own hours and adhere to responsibilities. You have the freedom to set your own preferences, and it can be said to be one of the pillars of achieving work-life balance.

I also feel that the fact that employment in Denmark is less stable than in Japan has an impact on work styles. As competition is fierce, there is a strong tendency to optimize and get the job done. Compared to Denmark, it is not easy to dismiss employees in Japan, and workers are often protected.

To realize a better way of working

"What are you working hard on and where are you spending your time?''

By carefully reflecting on your daily work, you may be able to find areas for improvement. As a result, you may be able to return home earlier. I feel it is important to have discussions within the company and explore the possibilities of shortening work and digitalization.

Digitalization is an important element when thinking about work styles in Japan. With the advancement of digitalization, more productive work styles can be realized.