A Word for the Weekend: Arbejdsglaede

A Word for the Weekend blog series

Last week I was away on my holidays. It was lovely: I had a fantastic time, it was relaxing, total break from life, a time spent doing very little apart from walking along seafronts, eating ice creams, reading and crafting.

After such a lovely time, coming back to work should be a let down, shouldn’t it? The British and American cultures are very fond of the idea that work is somewhere we come because we have to, that we only do because we’re paid for it and that work hours are the treadmill time we put in before we get home to the golden hours of freedom.

Arbejdesglaede 1

In Scandinavian cultures, they take pride in being happy at work. In Danish it’s called arbejdsglaede: literally work-joy or work-gladness.

Alexander Kjerulf  writes ” According to most studies of worker satisfaction among nations, the happiest employees in the world are in Denmark. ” In an article for Fast Company, he writes that Danish companies don’t expect their employees to do ridiculous office hours to prove their worth, that the benefits in and out of work are generous and that there is a focus on training and happiness within the work culture so that an employee is always able to develop themselves and their new skills and that they expect to get something out of work other than monetary reward, “To most Danes, a job isn’t just a way to get paid; we fully expect to enjoy ourselves at work.”

I can feel workers all over the West sucking in their teeth and shaking their heads at another sign of Denmark’s impossible culture. How can we expect to be happy at work? Well, how about expecting to be happy.  Shakespeare writes in Hamlet that “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

I love my job: I am in the fortunate position of working for my husband, in a role I enjoy, in a quiet office that allows me time both for working at my sidelines (hello blog and hygge books, I’m looking at you) and of being able to ask for family time off for appointments and childcare.I know how lucky I am, believe me.

But I have been in difficult work situations, where the co-workers don’t talk to you and the atmosphere in the place can be sliced with a knife. I hated it, and it was making me ill. I lived for the weekends, and longed to be anywhere else in the school. I would make excuses to pass by my favourite teachers’ classrooms just to be met with a smile. I was fortunate enough that things came to a head and the Senior Management Team listened to me and moved me. My last term at school was a pleasure, and I left with a smile rather than a sick-note.

Stay Positive and Happy 2

I expected to have a right to enjoy my work. I wanted to feel secure. I needed to feel valued. Now that I am in a place and working with a person who knows all my strengths and a great many of my weaknesses, I do feel that. My holiday last week was lovely: I had a blast, I enjoyed time away from work and home and returned refreshed and renewed.

But the brightest thing for me was that I woke up on the first day of my return to the office after a whole night’s sleep. I woke up smiling, and happy, and invigorated, with a list of things to do at home and work. Most of all, as I sat at the computer and started work, I realised I was feeling glad to be back. Arbejdsglaede? In the UK? Yes, it’s possible.

What about you? How do you feel about work? If we are willing to spend over 7 hours a day in a workplace, should we expect happiness as well as a wage? What do you do to make your working environment better, or do you see your attitude to work as important? Let me know in the comments below!

Enjoy the writing? Want to read more about hygge? If you’d like to read more about how hygge has made my life happier, my first two books are available now:  50 Ways to Hygge the British Way  is available in Paperback and Kindle version and so is How to Hygge Your Summer, again in Paperback and Kindle form, from Amazon.  If you purchase through the links on this page, I get a couple of pence extra per copy, and if you’ve already read it and enjoyed it, please leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. I have a Goodreads Author’s Page!

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2 thoughts on “A Word for the Weekend: Arbejdsglaede

  1. I hate my job with a passion. I hate the actual work and the unmanageable volume of it, the management, the place that it is situated (which moved recently, it was OK before the move) and although I get on well with a few of my colleagues, there are many that I don’t like. Unfortunately the management of the organisation imposed their own ideas on the front line staff and refused to listen to us when we said exactly what we didn’t want, and now they tell us to make it work, which we can’t. So I’m currently signed off sick and I plan to hand in my notice next week. I don’t ever want to go back. I wish most UK workplaces were hygge, I wish management cared about you being happy at work, sadly in my experience most don’t. I’m glad you have found your hygge at work, it gives me hope.


    1. That’s heartbreaking to hear. Your situation is not an isolated one, I fear. Like you say ‘management’ are so often focused on results, targets and profits that they forget to take care of their assets, the staff. I hope you find a better place, a place to be happy. There are few things more disheartening than working every day in a place that makes you ill.


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