3 Key Elements That Make The European Workforce Happier and More Productive

A whole continent can not be reduced to 3 generalizations. That is a given. But our hope is that you can take away some valuable tactics that are more prevalent outside of North America that could change the game in your business. 

 

Founders House, Copenhagen

Founders House, Copenhagen

1. Work Hours

It is widely known that Europeans have a different pace of life than us over here in North America. The French and the Swedes take a staggering 8-12 weeks of vacation. Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland and Germany all work remarkably shorter days (approx. 5-6 hours). 

Our paradigm may be fixed on work hours, vacation time and what truly makes us productive, but perhaps we need to start second guessing ourselves.

In most cases, less hours worked with a high commitment to getting the job done, working diligently and with focus will increase productivity and profitability. PLUS employees report notably higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction

Recently, I observed this first hand in Berlin and Copenhagen. The laughter that permeated through offices was infectious. Yet in meetings, people were focused, determined and amped to roll up their sleeves and get to work. Because less people are overworked, their capacity for deep and thoughtful work increases and the results speak for themselves. Europeans did not seem to be as afraid to make work a meaningful experience in their lives. Instead of running away from work everyday, they often look to enjoy themselves, getting as much fulfillment from life at work as they do at home.

Take Action

Test this with your teams. What way are you able to push the boundary on work-life integration? We’ve continually seen examples in research that shows us that most people spend 1-2 hours in the work day, well, not working. This unproductive time can be cut down by having employees be required to have a similar output of work (~90%) completed in a reduced work day (5-6 hours) (https://www.fastcompany.com/3063262/what-happened-when-i-moved-my-company-to-a-5-hour-workday). Conversely, we have data to show us that less hours work actually does produce more output (https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/03/does-working-fewer-hours-make-you-more-productive).

 

2. The Multicultural Advantage

With the EU and its splendid open-borders agreement, it is simply a part of who they are to work with people from many different countries. I saw this first hand in many organizations. When I met with the team at Redbubble in Berlin, of the 6 employees I met with, none were from the same country. 

This secret strength, an openness and welcoming of diversity, cannot be overlooked in the North American workforce.

Why?

The need for new and innovative ideas that can be taken to market is greater than ever before. Harnessing an ability to collaborate with people from many nations, tribes and tongues is an untapped road to innovation. The more diverse the workWe’ve seen this backed by research, innovation and market growth increases in workplaces of higher diversity

 

Endomondo team collaboration

Endomondo team collaboration

Take Action

Update your hiring practices. Are you actively seeking people to work for you that do not just “fit” the job description, but exceed it. Further to that, do you have a solid understanding of your employee base to know what cultures are represented and more importantly what you are missing. Flip your thinking. Diversity isn’t something we do to be nice and meet the status quo or some sort of legal requirement. Rather, it gives us a way to game-changing innovation and execution on out-of-the-box ideas.

3. Multiple Small Offices

Barriers for travel are drastically lower in Europe. This is an advantage. It allows them to attract talent from different regions and still accommodate them in their workforce. Access to a greater variety of markets and customer demographics comes with a much smaller price tag. After all the business environment of London and Barcelona are wildly different, but still accessible if helpful for your company. 

I was baffled at how many companies I visited, even small tech start-ups of less than 10 people had multiple offices. 

What makes it possible? 

Well it’s NOT that they can easily travel from country-to-country. Actually, it’s a principle that makes it accessible as well for North Americans: systems and processes. The use of collaboration technologies (Slack, Asana, Zoom Calling etc.) is rampant. 

I understand we are doing this across North America as well, but we are a bit slower to the draw outside of tech hubs such as Waterloo, Silicon Valley and Seattle. 

When we can build companies that CAN exist to be fully virtual and remote, even if we have physical locations, our business wins. The cultural impact of giving your employees more freedom, accessing talent and resources with a greater ease-of-entry, and establishing presence in more markets are perks of the remote company that can no longer be ignored. 

Take Action

Is it actually in your best interest to have just one office location? Could the advantages of multiple locations outweigh the perceived disadvantages? Have you challenged your assumptions about the cost of such an endeavour, the impact it will have on your culture and its impact on your bottom line?

How might you test this?

  1. Propose. Give your employees an option to work 1 week remotely per year (or quarter, or month, whatever you’re comfortable with). They can be on vacation in the Bahamas or on their couch at home, but encourage them to not be at the office.
  2. Give them one caveat... they just have to tell you where they are going. Why? Not to breach their privacy but so you can look for opportunities to partner with them in this.
  3. Harness the opportunity. If they are travelling to Toronto, have them attend an important event that week as a representative of your company. You could even set up a meeting with a prospect that you couldn’t have met in person before with. Your employee will instantly feel like you trust them much more, they will get out of their regular pattern of work and you will experience the ebb and flow of what it’s like having people work for you remotely.