If you’re in the U.S., you’ve probably never heard of arbejdsglæde. You probably can’t even say arbejdsglæde. Actually, you probably have no idea what that little “æ” is! Arbejdsglæde is incredibly important for the U.S. workforce though – and our Nordic friends have a word to tell us what we’re missing.
Arbejdsglæde — pronounced ah-bites-gleh-the (try saying that five times quickly!) — is a Danish word meaning happiness at work. It doesn’t mean job satisfaction, and it doesn’t mean being joyful and also happening to be employed. It actually means that your job brings you gladness and joy. (Check out an awesome TEDTalk on arbejdsglæde here by Alexander Kjerulf, or an animated version here). There’s a whole word for that in the Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian, but in no other language. In no other country is it important enough for employees to have happiness at work that the country has designated a specific word for this phenomenon.
We haven’t spent a lot of time in the U.S. until recently thinking about how to love what we do. We figure that we get paid and after all, it’s called “work” for a reason. Especially as managers and leaders in our respective businesses, it’s hard to focus on employee happiness when there are fires to be put out in shipping, billing, and product development. As we move into a more competitive recruiting environment, however, it is increasingly critical to focus on our employees and their arbejdsglæde.
Do you think last Monday all of your employees popped out of bed, eyes twinkling, excited for the week ahead? Probably not. You know it’s essential to keep your employees engaged and happy in order to retain the top talent, but honestly it sounds like a lot of work – not to mention the monetary investment it must entail. Right?
Wrong. It turns out arbejdsglæde is closely tied to two very simple, inexpensive concepts: results and relationships. When your employees feel they add meaning with their day-to-day tasks and have close connections to their coworkers, they are many times more likely to report being happy at work.
Let’s start with the “work” part of this equation. The average employee in the U.S. spends more time in their cubicles than they do with family, friends or practicing hobbies – combined. They should be doing something worthwhile with that time. Employees have different ideas of what “meaningful work” is, but a great boss helps them discover their passions and recognizes the awesome results of his or her team.
Let’s say Daniella from Accounting often expresses interest in developing an automated way to track billing and receiving with her programming background. An employee who will never feel arbejdsglæde at work will be told that isn’t in her job description. To make Daniella feel like she has a great job, one where she is appreciated and empowered, she should be allowed that latitude.
Feeling as if they have done a good job is the second way employees experience results in the workplace. Public praise is a simple way to let employees know you see and appreciate their successes. Celebrating your people is free and has a huge impact on their perception of their worth at the company.
Half of introducing arbejdsglæde in your workplace depends on making your people feel their job is worthwhile. You believe the work they do is invaluable, or you would not have hired them in the first place. Let them know you appreciate them and that you support their efforts to explore their passions to start seeing their joy at work.
Social relationships in the workplace are natural. We spend so much time with the same people that if we didn’t develop friendships and networks in the office we’d lose our minds. It turns out that the one of the keys to happiness in the workplace depends on those friendships, social interactions, and communication.1 If you like your boss, your employees, and even your customers, you’re far more likely to find joy in your job.
Because you’re the awesome boss you are, you’re thinking there should be a way to facilitate these relationships in the office. Lucky for you, these friendships form the best in natural situations – at the coffee station, over lunch, at happy hour. A story about four young nurses in a Danish hospital highlights how simple it is to change relationships in an office building:
Four new hires at the children’s ward of a Danish hospital found a toxic atmosphere among nurses. The environment was ripe with gossip and unhappiness. These brand-new nurses took the initiative to bring friendship into the daily lives of the nurses with whom they worked. Through a few office barbecues, a plush elephant they passed around to let others know they were doing a great job, and some tireless smiles, these nurses created one of the best environments to work in.2
Obviously we can’t rely on these four nurses to create that environment in our workplaces since they’re a little busy saving lives. But we can replicate what they did by hosting inexpensive events that gather everyone together in low-stress environment. Begin forming the bonds of friendship over a potluck, or an office lunch, or a karaoke sing-off. Create a space where employees feel welcomed and comfortable. Then, watch those relationships bloom.
Two simple concepts can bring you joy in your work, and in the workplace of those surrounding you. Arbejdsglæde might seem like a foreign concept (don’t let the word fool you!), but it is easy to introduce practices that foster an environment of arbejdsglæde in your office. Focus on results and relationships and feel happiness invade your day-to-day. Now if only we had a word for that…
For a limited time, if you want to create relationships like this at your company, you can have access to Aspire’s software with no licensing, set-up or on-boarding fees. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org for a free demo account!