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Europe’s happiest countries have the most productive employees

Updated: Apr 29

Two  happy employees

Happy employees truly are more productive yet many businesses fail to recognise this. To highlight the importance of employee happiness in the workplace, we’ve analysed recent data to discover whether happiness really does impact productivity at work.


To conduct the research, we cross-referenced Opinium productivity level data and World Happiness Report data in ten European countries including Germany, the UK, Netherlands, Italy, France, Spain, Ireland, Denmark, Switzerland and Sweden. Here’s what we found. 


A sweet life in Sweden 

The research reveals that Sweden is the second happiest and most productive European country, with 39% of employees feeling “productive” at work. Work-life balance is incredibly important to Swedish citizens. As a testament to this, employees are entitled, by law, to five weeks of paid vacation – with many companies giving their employees six weeks. 


Sweden also has a generous parental leave policy, with most parents given 480 days of parental leave, paid at around 80% of their salary for the first 390 days. While parents are allowed to split parental leave as they wish, 90 days must be used by at least one parent. With envy-worthy workplace benefits and initiatives across Sweden, it’s no wonder why Swedish employees are the most productive. 


Discover Europe’s happiest and most productive countries below:


Happiness and Employee Productivity Rankings in Europe

Employee happiness in the UK

There are many factors that impact overall employee happiness, from supporting a healthy work-life balance to driving a positive work culture. Despite being the sixth happiest European country, the UK is the second least productive. So what’s stopping UK workers from feeling productive?  


According to Google Trends data, searches for “work life balance” and “work stress” in the UK soared by 127% and 225% from December 2023 to January 2024, when everyone was returning to work after the Christmas break. These figures show that workers seem to struggle with workplace stress and achieving a good work-life balance which could be causing low productivity levels. 


How to build a happy and productive workplace

For many businesses, employee happiness is not a priority. But it should be. As our research shows, the majority of the happiest countries are also the most productive. This is why it’s so essential for employers to prioritise employee well-being and happiness in the workplace. 


Happier employees deliver the best results, so to help your employees achieve happiness at work, here are three ways you can build a happy and productive workplace:


1. Promote flexible and remote working options


Flexible working has become a normality, especially since the pandemic, yet there are still companies that have yet to embrace a fully flexible workplace. According to research by CIPD, 71% of workers view flexible working as important to them when considering a new role. If this doesn’t highlight the importance of flexible working then perhaps this will: an estimated 4 million people in the UK have changed careers due to a lack of flexibility at work in the last year alone. These shocking figures highlight the value employees place on flexible working and its importance when choosing a workplace. 


Offering flexible working hours to employees will help them achieve a better work-life balance, providing them with more freedom and happiness. Remote working has also become an expectation of many employees which is why it’s essential to offer this in an industry where remote working is possible.


2. Define career goals and growth


Many people thrive from having clear, defined goals to reach. If employees feel like they’re not working towards anything, a lack of motivation can quickly set in. To prevent this from happening and keep your employees happy, you need to define clear career paths and offer career growth even if they’ve reached the top.  


To encourage career growth and let your employees know you’re prioritising their career progression, you first need to establish a transparent culture. Offer clear direction on how they can seek growth and achieve their goals to keep them feeling happy and motivated.

 

3. Implement initiatives


There are plenty of innovative initiatives and positive policies you can implement to boost happiness and productivity levels in the workplace – from flexible working policies as mentioned above to giving employees time in lieu. Another great initiative many UK companies are adopting involves giving employees a day off to volunteer at a local charity. 


As an example, we’ve implemented a variety of schemes including a Work From Anywhere Policy which allows employees to work from countries with a dual taxation agreement with the UK for up to 45 days per year. We also introduced a Menstrual Policy which enables employees to take up to ten days off per year for severe menopause or period symptoms or following pregnancy loss. Initiatives like these are imperative to creating a happier and more productive work environment. 


Simply put, happier employees are simply more productive! A focus on well-being and promoting a great work-life balance can lead to a happier, more motivated team and, ultimately, greater success for the business.


Sources



Methodology


  • Using data from Opinium’s The Future of Work report, the team analysed productivity levels in the following European countries: Germany, the UK, Netherlands, Italy, France, Spain, Ireland, Denmark, Switzerland and Sweden. 

  • The team then analysed happiness rankings in the World Happiness Report to discover whether happiness impacts productivity at work.



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