For any business to succeed it’s important to try and maintain a healthy, happy workplace. The HSE figures state that in 2016/17, 12.5 million days of work were lost in the UK due to stress, anxiety and depression. Though it may be an employer’s responsibility to keep employees healthy, it seems like policies of employment on a national level may also have made an impact.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Netherlands, where our study of data collected by the HSE as well as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), shows that the Dutch have the edge when it comes to ensuring a happy, healthy and therefore productive workplace. Does a country’s health have links to the prosperity of its workforce?
We compiled stats for the key indicators of a country’s business success as well as the happiness of its workers and found that, along with some of the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands is among the best performing each time compared to the rest of Europe.
So what do these figures tell us about the ways of the Dutch workplace, and how do the Nordic countries take care of their workers?
They are more productive
Based on figures surrounding each European country’s labour input and GDP, our figures show that the Netherlands is the fifth most productive country in Europe behind Norway, Luxembourg, Ireland and Belgium. The top three each display over 100% productivity according to our data.
However, three European countries in the data are less than 50% productive – with Estonia, Hungary and Poland averaging just 43.8% between them. The UK is ninth from the bottom of the table at 75.7% – considerably lower than the Nordic countries.
Supplying your employee’s with the tools they need to complete their work can help with productivity. Making sure there is a supply of notebooks, pens and anything they need will enable them to fulfil their duties.
They have better overall health
The Netherlands again lands in the top five countries in terms of overall health, joined this time by Ireland and Spain, along with Norway and Sweden making up the Nordic contingent. The UK also isn’t far behind, being seventh on the table.
Health is closely tied to productivity, as the bottom three countries are again Estonia, Hungary and Poland in terms of how healthy each of the countries are from the data.
They have higher life satisfaction
Correlation shows that a productive and healthy worker is most definitely a happy one, as the Netherlands finds itself the fourth-happiest in Europe. Finland makes a strong claim in the table, as do the Scandinavian countries again. Meanwhile the least happy countries are Portugal and Hungary. The UK is almost dead centre for life satisfaction, with 73%.
They feel safe and healthy at work
When asked if they feel their health and safety are at risk because of their jobs, only Denmark considers themselves a safer and healthier working nation than the Netherlands. Sweden is a surprise at the lowest point on the table, with more than 40% of Swedes feeling at risk on the job despite their relatively high scoring in other fields. Ireland, Italy and the UK make up the rest of the five lowest for believing their health is at risk at work.
They work shorter hours
The earlier numbers on productivity make for a surprise here, as the Dutch only work for an average 30 hours per week – by far the lowest of the countries included in the index. Denmark and Norway also appear in the top five, proving yet again that the Scandinavian model is a business success story. Interestingly, two of the three countries performing at above 100% productivity also claim to have two of the five shortest regulated working weeks – so whether it’s down to a more flexible working arrangement or simply putting in some overtime, the number of working hours does affect a country’s overall prosperity measured in GDP.
Equally odd is that Greece, Poland and Slovakia each work more than 40 hours per week despite being at the lower end of the productivity scale.
The UK is in the lower 50% for working hours with an average of 36.7 hours worked per week.
Each of the above categories tells us the importance that its best-performing counties place on employee well-being, and that above all the Netherlands and Scandinavia are the most consistent when it comes to maintaining a healthy workforce. Compared to the countries which have placed bottom or thereabouts in each category – Hungary and Poland for example – it may be that government policy in these countries place other priorities above workforce wellbeing.
But the Netherlands for one has introduced a set of guidelines for employers to ensure their workers are treated well. The Dutch Working Conditions Act overhauls the general health and safety policy, cutting down on reporting and red tape, and allowing workplaces to introduce their own rules and regulations. The resulting framework is better tailored to specific companies, and so is more thoughtful of their employees’ health rather than ticking some bureaucratic boxes.
And with one-third of workplace absenteeism attributed to stress, last summer the Dutch government campaigned in conjunction with the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA). The Healthy Workplaces Manage Stress Campaign allowed workers to ‘check their work stress’ on social media and encouraged a wider discussion on mental health issues caused by workplace stress.
The Euro Health Consumer Index scores European countries in a number of categories such as average waiting time, accessibility and patient rights. In the 2014 edition the Netherlands are top, while Scandinavian countries are no lower than 12th. Of the countries featured on this list, Hungary and Poland are also the bottom two on the EHCI.
And in terms of working conditions in the Netherlands, even those on the lower rung of employment are still well provided for, as workers on minimum wage have their health benefits covered by their employer , adding a great deal of value to the total employment package. Not only that but under Dutch law, the minimum wage can be adjusted every six months to account for inflation, which in turn is also offset by raised productivity among the workforce year-on-year.
The Dutch model of employment is the envy of its European colleagues, and has even grown to outpace the previously praised Nordic Model. With employers covering the healthcare costs of its lowest earners, plus the generous wage policies, the resulting boost to health and life satisfaction is ensuring that the Netherlands remains one of Europe’s most prosperous places.