An article has been doing the rounds on my social channels recently, originally from Time magazine about “How to Parent like a Dane”.
Essentially, it talks about a sort of no-nonsense parenting that I love – same lunch everyday, no need for babyproofing, government-funded childcare… it almost had me reaching for my passport and heading for a more civilised life in Scandinavia.
But my favourite part was about “hygge” – a concept for which there is no obvious English translation. The word sort of celebrates cosy family time, sense of well-being, enjoying a meal together – demonstrated by a working culture that by 4pm, office workers in Denmark apparently down tools and head home to share a family meal.
That is practically unheard of the UK. We hear of some Cornish companies who have flexible working to fit in surf time when the waves are looking promising. But not a situation where the entire office shuts down by 4pm to break bread.
I LOVE this idea. We run a pretty flexible ship at our company – I’m typing this on my sofa at home because I have a poorly five year old off school. It’s completely acceptable to me that one of my team might finish a bit early to DJ at his kids’ school disco, or even those staff who aren’t parents to attend their god-daughter’s nativity. They make the time up elsewhere, and when the chips are down they have my back, and I have theirs.
In Cornwall, I’d say flexible working is celebrated and embraced by a number of workplaces, but I can’t say this is adopted by our counterparts in London or nationally.
We work in PR and marketing. I understand there is an astonishing culture in the creative industry nationally where working late is the norm, pulling “all-nighters” ahead of a pitch, and senior creative staff compete over who has seen their family the least. How is this sustainable?
Last month, we were up for an enormous pitch for a significant contract, with a powerful organisation based in Cornwall. In getting our pitch together, our team of four had to facilitate three separate school runs to finish the job. At least three children of MPAD were present in the office during that afternoon.
The contract stayed with the current agency, but we came joint-second with a London agency. At the time I was worried – could a “lifestyle” business really compete with national agencies? I think we proved that we can. The client was eager to point out that we were completely holding our own as a Cornish-grown agency.
Cornwall is keen to grow businesses, create meaningful jobs, stand proudly on our own two feet and compete on a national and international stage. But I think we can do that by embracing our own kind of hygge.