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Exploring the Benefits of a Work-Life Balance in Norway

When it comes to work-life balance, Norway sets an excellent example for the rest of the world.

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September 29, 2023
4 min read

When it comes to work-life balance, Norway sets an excellent example for the rest of the world. The country has consistently ranked high in work-life balance measures, with generous parental leave policies (up to 49 weeks), shorter working hours (37.5 hours per week), and an abundant annual leave entitlement (25 days).

Although the physical working environment is good, primarily psychosocial factors distinguish Norway’s working environment from other European countries.

Norwegian family values

Family holds great significance in Norway. The country’s parental leave policies are among the most generous in the world, with new parents entitled to up to 49 weeks of leave at full pay or 59 weeks at 80% pay. This allows parents to spend valuable time with their newborns and establish a strong bond before returning to work.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

In recent decades, there has been a change in the traditional approach to parenting, with younger generations advocating for equal participation from both parents. Mandating equal parental leave can help to break the perception that caregiving and parenting are solely the responsibility of mothers. When more fathers take their parental leave, it will become more normalized.

Studies have shown that it has numerous social and psychological benefits when both parents are actively involved in raising a child. Empowering fathers to participate in their children’s lives actively is essential, as those involved in their children’s lives tend to live longer and healthier lives.

There is also a business and economic impact of taking advantage of equal parental leave. Fathers who take their permitted parental leave make it possible for mothers to return to work sooner. That way, the chances of promotion increase, and monthly payments improve.

Norwegian work culture

A strong focus on work-life balance, egalitarianism, and teamwork characterizes the Norwegian work culture. Many employers operate with flexi-time, allowing employees to adjust their work hours to suit their needs better and making it particularly beneficial for parents. Norwegian workplaces also offer “core hours” or “Kjernetid”, the hours you are expected to work (usually between 9 and 3).

Since the Norwegian workplace is known for its collaborative and egalitarian approach, all employees are encouraged to contribute their ideas, regardless of their position in the company. This flat organizational structure fosters a sense of equality and teamwork.

Effective teamwork relies heavily on good communication, which is direct and open. Since employees are given the space to express their opinions, managers must listen and respond respectfully. Their job is to promote the best out of all colleagues and ensure an effective allocation of company resources.

"Norwegian" leadership culture is based on dialogues, trust, and consensus-oriented decision-making.

The Norwegian working model focuses on a solid partnership between employers, employees, and government officials to address work-related concerns. This collaboration has led to:

  • low unemployment rates,
  • high productivity and flexibility,
  • and increased international competitiveness.

On top of that, wage policies that promote solidarity and income and resource redistribution by the welfare state help prevent social inequality at various levels.

After the pandemic, it has become common to work from home. Many Norwegian companies allow employees to work remotely as long as there is an agreement between employer and employee. Employees are expected to work efficiently and effectively despite working from home, focusing on achieving results. Still, employers also recognize that productivity is not the only measure of success.

However, new trends in the labor market are putting pressure on the Norwegian working life model.

Battle of the leaderships

In the last twenty years, migration and migrant workers in Norway have positively influenced the labor market, but this also came with challenges. Maria F. Hoen, Simen Markussen, and Knut Røed discussed this in “Immigration and Social Mobility”, published in 2018. As a result of competition from foreign workers, employees with little education and low incomes have dropped out of the labor market.

Different forms of employment, such as temporary staffing agencies, self-employment, and platform services like Airbnb and Uber, are closely tied to labor migration, according to Steffen Torp and Jon Reiersen’s article “The Norwegian working life model promotes good health”. Although these developments are more prevalent in other countries, they also significantly impact industries and businesses in Norway.

The authors noticed that temporary staffing agencies are increasing in construction, hospitality, and health services, even though they were forbidden in Norway. Zero-hours contracts became the standard. But eventually, they were banned in 2019.

While Norwegians are open to new ideas and innovation, they tend to avoid abrupt and extreme transformations whenever possible. They generally prefer gradual, incremental changes. This is unsurprising as it fits their culture, promoting a more egalitarian approach.

Image by Jan Marczuk from Pixabay

Decisions are consensual, and projects are carefully analyzed at every step to ensure all risks are assessed and understood. As a result, discussions can be lengthy, and those who prefer a more directive and hands-on management style may experience some frustration. Still, it is advised to make decisions with sufficient discussions.

Nevertheless, a particular trend is gaining traction in Norway: adopting an "Americanised" leadership style. This is due to the increasing presence of multinational companies and managers educated in countries like the USA and the UK, leading to a shift away from the traditional "Norwegian" leadership culture based on dialogues, trust, and consensus-oriented decision-making.

Adopting an "Americanized" leadership culture, as Steffen Torp and Jon Reiersen suggested, may result in decreased employee power, heightened social inequality, and lower trust. As you can see, attitudes towards authority and decision-making differ across cultures, which invariably impacts leadership practice.


The Norwegian work culture teaches us that by promoting equality and collaboration at work and building trust with colleagues, employers can help employees thrive and contribute to the organization’s success. The Norwegian culture also highlights the importance of family and recognizes the importance of accommodating employees’ needs by allowing flexible work hours.

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