Dutch office life

The Netherlands is ranked third in the world for work-life balance by the Office for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). When you work in an office, your hours are clearly defined and always respected. It is unusual to find employees slogging away into the night, however there is also the attitude that you are at work to get a job done, rather than for a sociable time. Offices in Haarlem are pleasant places to be, and the working culture is mainly formal. Employees are always trying to maintain a good work-life balance too, and around 50% of them spend time working from home or have arrangements to help with family life and childcare.

The working day

Normal business hours in Haarlem are 08.30am – 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. Day care (kinderopvang) is easy to find in Haarlem, and many people find that they are eligible for a government subsidy for this, and employers are also obligated to help. This makes the important work-life balance better for families. Dutch is the common language for business, but many companies also communicate in English, which makes it easier for expats. Long, leisurely lunches are very unusual in the Netherlands, generally lunch is just time to have a quick snack, which is why many employees bring their own lunch from home.

Team working

Of course there are managers in Dutch offices, but there is a very strong emphasis on team working. Employees work together to make key decisions and implement plans, and this generally helps people to get on well. Managers make an effort to gain feedback regularly, and this helps to improve company practices and procedures. Generally managers aren’t omniscient, they are seen as being facilitators and problem solvers within a business. They will have a good understanding of business strategy though and know who the best person is to deal with a task. Good employees are very much valued in a company and gestures like celebrating an employee’s work anniversary are common. Recognising these milestones helps to cement the bond between team workers and instills a sense of pride.

Office communication

Meetings are common in Dutch office culture, but they are always organised for the purpose of achieving a goal swiftly, with the least amount of fuss. If an employee is late or misses a meeting, they are considered to be unreliable. At office meetings there is almost always an agenda, and very little small talk. The Dutch like to get down to business swiftly, and decisions are normally implemented soon after. Time definitely is money in Dutch office culture. Dutch business greetings are generally formal – it’s typical to shake hands. There is much value placed on eye contact too, looking someone in the eye when you speak to them is considered to demonstrate trustworthiness.

Do you agree with the above analysis on office life in the Netherlands? What differences do you find comparing office life in your country and in the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments!

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1 reply
  1. Natalie
    Natalie says:

    Dear NL Expats,

    After 11 years in the Netherlands we experienced quite the opposite.

    If you are not born Dutch and speak fluent Dutch, they will avoid communicating with you (nationalistic mindset).

    They lie a lot!!!

    Regarding the lunch breaks you are indeed correct.

    People come to work sick to create group immunization. That is disgusting. Instead of staying at home until the sickness is over they infect everyone around them. When approached why they do this, the answer was “this is who we are”.

    No hierarchy system. Nobody knows exactly what to do due to the leader missing.

    What good is that there is no criticism on your work performance, also the 8% holiday allowance is great.

    Best regards from expats Hoofddorp

    Reply

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