By Heikki Väänänen | CEO & Founder
In my latest Forbes article, I look at the World Happiness Report and the reasons why my native Finland has, once again, been ranked #1 in the world. If you’re reading this and you’re Finnish, the reasons might be obvious. Finland has extensive welfare benefits, low levels of corruption, a well-functioning democracy, and an instilled sense of freedom and independence, which is a big part of what makes up our happiness. What’s more, progressive taxation and wealth distribution has allowed for a flourishing and world-leading universal healthcare system.
From a work-life point of view, Finland was one of the first nations to pioneer the flat working model, which is something that’s only recently made its way to countries further afield. Flat working, for those unfamiliar, is a model by which businesses are structured and is one that is characterized by very few hierarchal levels between management and staff. The idea behind this is to increase team cohesion and workplace productivity, all the while empowering the workforce to work, simply offering maximum flexibility while doing so. This worker-centric approach to business has served Finland well for more than a decade and, in my opinion, plays one of the biggest roles in the country’s overall happiness. For all of us, happiness is nearly always linked with the joy you get from your job and the pursuit of a healthy work-life balance.
One of the other major facets that springs to mind when I think of Finnish culture and what makes the country so happy, is ‘sisu’, a Finnish philosophy that roughly translates to ‘stoic perseverance’ in English. As a nation, Finland embodies this principle in so many ways. One example is the successful approach that the country has taken to ending homelessness. Finland’s novel ‘housing first’ principle ensures that rough sleepers are given the right support, with an end-goal of eventually owning their own home. As a result of the government’s efforts, Finland has one of the lowest levels of homelessness globally. Finland also places high importance on gender equality and closing the gender pay gap. It is, in fact, the only country in the developed world in which fathers spend more time with school-aged children than mothers.
To me, it’s obvious why the Finnish people are so happy. The country consistently pushes the boundaries of working and socioeconomic culture in order to be the most progressive and forward-thinking nation, not for itself, but for the sake of its people, and in the hope that other nations might learn something from its successes.
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