Why are Norwegians so productive?

Leading in productivity and happiness

Ranked as the happiest country in the world, it’s no wonder Norway is an attractive place to both live and work. But Norway also attracts students from all over the world, eager to learn first-hand about the Scandinavian way of life and about the success of a leadership model making Norwegian employees among the world’s most productive.

In the World Happiness Report published by the UN, more than 150 countries were ranked on their level of happiness – using six key indicators: freedom, generosity, health, social support, income, and trustworthy governance. 

While the report shows that Norwegians are the happiest people, we like to rely on statistics for measuring productivity. And numbers do show that Norway is number one in productivity per worker, with almost 50% more gross domestic product per hour than the UK. Of course, happy employees are a major contributor to creating good results, but this effective work force is for the most part built on equality and a flat hierarchy – also known as The Scandinavian Leadership Model.


First and foremost, Scandinavian work culture consists of great teamwork. But what really characterises Norwegian leadership is the emphasis on flat structures within the organisation, which seems to both motivate and foster more productivity.

Talking is trusting
While typical Anglo-American leadership is often based on authority, Scandinavian leaders are known for encouraging more dialogue and partnership within the organisation. Seeing everyone as equal and valuable empowers employees at all levels, while a hierarchy would limit the impact that lower ranked employees could have. Employees are able to take part in important decisions, which gives them more ownership to their tasks at hand.

Building relationships
Two-way communication is beneficial to building a strong relationship between leaders and employees, based on a great deal of respect. This doesn’t mean that Scandinavians sugar coat their comments, but quite the opposite, Norwegians are known for being very honest and direct in comparison to the rest of the world. Some might say you need thick skin when dealing with Scandinavians, but by being so honest and straight forward, you save a lot of time. That means more efficiency, which can help lead to higher levels of productivity.

Sharing is caring
Another great strength of Scandinavian leadership is the custom of sharing knowledge and important information with each other. In Norway, it’s not unusual for CEOs to practice full financial transparency. Showing everyone the cash flow on a regular basis can create a more trustworthy work environment and a greater chance of people working more efficiently together to reach the company’s goals.

Delegate your way to success
Another important part of the Scandinavian Leadership Model is the importance of delegating work. Instead of micromanaging projects, which can be stressful for everyone involved, it’s important to empower employees with the responsibility of executing tasks that align with a specific goal. By minimising the amount of control freaks and creating small teams where every single member is responsible, you have a greater chance of reaching the set goals.

Balance is key 
Norway has also figured out the importance of work-life balance. Employees are encouraged to take their five weeks off, with colleagues and leaders showing a genuine interest in where people go and what they do. When everyone is responsible for contributing to the company, there is no logical reason to limit people from taking time off for themselves.


In relation to the Scandinavian way of working, students at BI speak of the benefits of work-life balance – where they enjoy balancing their time spent in school with their time spent outside of the classroom.

But they also mention the Norwegian informal way of approaching leaders, like addressing professors by their first name and the honest and direct way of communicating with each other. Like in the Scandinavian Leadership Model, there seems to be a great amount of trust within the school system, leading to stronger teamwork and a more efficient work process. Just like a flat hierarchy in companies seems to benefit employees, the same thing seems to work within the school system.

In other words, The Scandinavian Model can to some degree be implemented in the school structure, making sure students receive more than a degree. They learn about the work force of tomorrow and how teamwork is key in achieving the best results.

Stand out. Go North. But watch out, you might feel yourself getting happier.


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