How Denmark puts value on life-work balance
Putting together this particular issue of Whalebone Magazine required us to search the planet for the slower-paced places out there. And luckily for this expedition, our shoes were comfortable too. Likely that Denmark is one of those countries you’ve always wanted to go to but that seems to get knocked down the lists in front of the Frances and Italys out there. Well here is a little extra to help it move up the leaderboard—the Danes do it slowly. From family to work and everything in between, they put a high value on a leisurely pace. It’s built into their way of life. Luckily for us we recently made friends with the lovely humans over at ECCO, and in between staring at Shetland ponies directly outside of their HQ, we chatted about the benefits of a more Danish way of life. Specifically, Trisha Cox stepped up and put us in the know—and as an American who made Denmark her home, her perspective is particularly fun.
How has your view of living slowly shifted?
I need to preface that upon moving to Denmark, my destination was not that of a big city like Copenhagen or Aarhus. Rather as I stared out the window of my two-hour taxi ride from the airport, taking in cattle and countryside, I learned home was to be the quaint village of Tønder—a town of 7,000 people in the heart of Southern Jutland. I have been to concerts with more people than are living in my entire town. I quickly learned to slowdown—not immediately because I wanted to but because I had to. While I had spent my earlier years trying to cram as much into a day as possible from jumping in the car to work to shopping to happy hours to a quick TV dinner, all of a sudden here in Denmark, time seemed to stop. At 5 p.m. and 2 p.m. on weekends, nary a shop was open, and nearly no people were in sight. Suddenly time slowed down. The shift was natural, and oddly enough it felt like I had more hours in my day even though I was doing less. I spent more time at home, I learned to cook long, slow meals, I could go to the beach and take a swim after work (winter swimming is a real thing!). I walked more and I worried less.
A little bit about yourself and what brought you to Denmark and ECCO?
I spent the bulk of my twenties chasing the flashing lights and prestige of big city after big city from Miami to NYC to Cleveland to ultimately settling in Denver, Colorado, living by the motto “Work hard, play harder.” It was in Colorado that I was introduced to the world of ECCO shoes while in retail sales with Nordstrom. While we had many a great product on the floor, what impressed me the most was how easy it was to sell ECCO (and in commission sales this meant everything). ECCO sales were as simple as getting the shoes on a customer’s feet and customers were easily sold by the comfort and quality. ECCO was one of the few brands that sent out reps to educate salespeople, and I was keen to learn more as I too was hooked: Being on my feet all day I had finally found iconic silhouettes that didn’t leave my feet in shambles by the end of a long shift.
Eventually, my interest in the ECCO brand propelled me to jump ship and make the move from being educated by our ECCO rep to becoming the ECCO rep myself. Thus I moved into an ECCO field sales role, traveling throughout the U.S. and educating salespeople on brand and product. Not long after joining, I was given the career opportunity of a lifetime when asked to join our ECCO GlobalHQ in Denmark for a role in product development to aid in building our Global Women’s Footwear Collection. So I traded in 300 days of sunshine and mountain views to move to Denmark, a country I only knew from a map and where the joke goes, “Danish summer is the best DAY of the year.” Little did I know at the time what I envisioned as a great career opportunity would actually be a great life opportunity. The landscapes, the Shetland ponies outside my office window, the innovation surrounding me, and the passion of my colleagues were infectious. I was ready to live Danishly and embrace all Denmark and ECCO had to offer. Eight years, one Danish husband and a Danish child later, I’m here to stay. Denmark is now home.
Can you tell us a little bit about the work-life balance perspective in Denmark?
Here we work to live rather than live to work. Back in the States, I often found myself putting in extra hours weekly just to be the first one in the office or the last one to go home—here, the office starts to empty out around 3 allowing the flexibility to pick up kids if needed. If you’re working too much one might question your efficiency rather than applaud your hard work. We have a 37-hour work week and after hours are family time; both Danes and ECCO respect that family comes first.
What about the Danish sustainability aspect?
As a country built upon agriculture and fishing, a respect for nature runs deep through the veins of Danes—rumor has it that even today there are still more pigs than people. So this appreciation for sustaining the environment is ingrained in everything we do, from the number of waste and recycling bins we have at home (it’s seven, by the way) to the number of bicycling commuters we see on the roads. Some areas are even closed to petrol/diesel vehicles entirely or have designated zero-emission zones. All of these small nuances add to the charm of Danish life and this respect for nature is a key strategic imperative for ECCO as well. While we have always worked to reduce our impact on the environment, we know there is still much work to be done. Nevertheless, we are always aiming to use less, recycle more and last longer. Our products are timeless classics rather than fast fashion. Ultimately, much like the core essence of Danish culture, we care for the world we share and are committed to leaving it better than we found it, both for the community of today and the modern family of tomorrow.