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European office cultures – what can we learn from our neighbours?

  • 4 Minutes read

Across Europe, workplaces have very different attitudes and approaches to ways of working - from four-day weeks to work email curfews.

How can we learn from the others to improve processes to enhance productivity? Let's look at the best practice from workplaces across the continent.

France – email curfews

In 2017, a new French law was introduced giving workers the “right to disconnect”1. Companies with more than 50 employees must now establish hours in which staff should not send or receive emails. The aim is to create a better work/life balance, preventing burn out of employees.

Finland – family time

Finland has a strong focus on gender equality.There’s a big emphasis on supporting working mums and The Economist recently rated it the third best country for that.

Finland’s approach is not about what works best for the adults, but what’s good for the children, with a major focus on their right to spend time with both parents. To support this, the government gives dads nine weeks of paternity leave, in which they are paid 70% of their salary.

Netherlands – shortest working week

An OECD study revealed that employees in Netherlands have the shortest working week in the world2, with an average of 29 hours per week. A four-day working week is typical for most workers and is encouraged by Dutch law which gives workers the right to reduce their hours to a part-time schedule, whilst keeping their job, hourly pay, health care and pro-rated benefits.

Dutch people strongly value a work/life balance, giving themselves a day a week to spend time with their families or participate in non-work-related activities. The luxury of working reduced hours is hard-earned, as the Dutch have very high rates of labour productivity.

Norway – conferencing is king

In the Norwegian workplace, there is a big focus on productivity and good communication, meaning conference calls are largely preferred over face-to-face meetings. Norwegians also pride themselves on being the most punctual country in the world, so don’t be late if you have a conference call scheduled in with them.

Spain – working around the weather

When it comes to the concept of flexitime, Spain go less for a day-to-day approach and more for a seasonal strategy. Working hours in sunny Spain tend to shorten during the summer due to the low season (and the heat). They restore the balance by working slightly longer during cooler climes and, in doing so, maximise on high season business opportunities.

Germany – early birds

In German workplaces, it’s common for employees to start early and it’s not unusual for workers to be in the office at 6am. This stems from some schools starting at 7.30am, so Germans aren’t strangers to waking up early. The upside to this is leaving the office earlier, particularly on summer days, giving people the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.


With Brother’s heritage in Japan, we could also take tips from our colleagues at our global HQ.

Ahead of any important meetings, our Japanese office would have a rehearsal called a ‘Newmawashi’. The pre-meeting helps to get approval from management before the real meeting with the actual authoriser to ensure everything is in place to be approved efficiently during the final meeting.

In Japan, most people start at Brother on April 1, and the culture is that everyone who joined at the same time, has a strong relationship. This is called a ‘Douki’ which translates to ‘joined in the same year’. it’s not unusual that a couple within the Douki gets married.

 

1 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-38479439
2 https://www.techrepublic.com/article/infographic-this-country-has-the-worlds-shortest-work-week/

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