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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability

The "Hygge" of the Happiest Employees

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With all of the tumult in the air, everyone could use a big dose of hygge right about now.

Clear your mind and picture this: cashmere socks and a crackling fire on a rainy day. Candles and shearling slippers. A warm latte with milk-foam heart. Pastries and sheepskin rugs.

Cozy and comforting, right? That’s the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced hoo-gah), which makes homes nicer, people happier, and for some reason is all the rage these days. It’s even made it to the Oxford Dictionaries’ 2016 ‘word of the year” shortlist.

In a New Yorker article titled “The Year of Hygge: The Danish Obsession with Getting Cozy,” Anna Atlman spoke with British-Danish writer Louisa Thomsen Brits, an expert on hygge. Brits describes hygge as a state of mindfulness: how to make essential and mundane tasks dignified, joyful, and beautiful, how to live a life connected with loved ones. Hygge affirms values such as community, belonging, simplicity, cheerfulness and reciprocity.

The Danes are reported to be the happiest people on earth, so maybe they’re onto something with hygge. Is there any connection between hygge and the 50 companies that Glassdoor recently rated the best places to work, based on employee reviews? Might be a stretch, but assessing happy employees that make up happy companies is the hygge that I need at the moment.

So first, let’s consider how this data was mined. Glassdoor canvassed its giant database of companies to search for the ones that had the best reviews by employees, who reported the pros, cons, advice to management and whether they’d recommend their company to a friend. Employees then rated the company overall, the CEO, and elements such as career opportunities, benefits, culture and values. Finally, companies received an overall rating from one to five.

As reported by Business Insider, Glassdoor's community expert Scott Dobroski said that employees love working at all of the companies that made the list, and many of these companies share some commonalities.

"We see employees talking favorably about working for companies with mission-driven company cultures, working for senior leaders who embrace and practice transparency, doing interesting work that has a greater impact, career growth opportunities, and competitive pay," he told Business Insider. "We also see employees at tech companies in particular talking about great perks they enjoy, including free meals, gyms on site, massages, free laundry services, and generous parental leave policies."

Let’s take a look at the winners and peek at some snapshot reviews on the cultures that make them great:

  1. Bain & Company - “You are empowered and accountable but you are not alone. And the best part is you can't fail. Because after all, what all those people are reinforcing is that a Bainie never lets another Bainie fail.”

  1. Facebook - “The openness is a real thing, we're trusted to do the right thing, mistakes are expected, being yourself is important and encouraged, humility is encouraged and expected, building trust is paramount, the mission of making the world a more open and connected place isn't just a cool phrase because it guides everything. It's not about us, it's about everyone else.”

  1. Boston Consulting Group - “Opens unbelievable opportunities and fosters incredible professional growth while still remaining personal. Believe the professional development opportunities are greater here than any other top consulting firm.”

  1. Google - “There a huge diversity of work ranging from defending independent journalism worldwide (Google Project Shield) to crisis response during disasters (see Maps during Hurricane Sandy or Tsunamis), to the best machine learning experts and projects in the world, to more mundane revenue-driving projects in advertising, there's really something for everybody.”

  1. World Wide Technology - “The best part of WWT is the people and culture. They are who they say they are. It is that simple. From the top down it is impressive how this company is run and attracts great people.”

  1. Fast Enterprises - “The ability to network and share creative ideas is incredible. The opportunity to be such an important team member on a project is wonderful. Everyone contributes in a way that the team as a whole is successful in the end.”

  1. In-N-Out Burger - “I love the company and everything they stand for. Great people. Awesome boss. Great atmosphere.”

  1. LinkedIn - “They truly invest in the professional development of employees. Very proactive at making sure that you're in a role you want to be in.”

  1. Adobe - “Great company culture, benefits and overall atmosphere to work. People are very open, knowledgeable and potential for advancement is very much available.”

  1. Power Home Remodeling - “The career growth opportunity is outstanding. Everyone in the office genuinely cares about each other and wants to see you be successful. Communication with upper management is incredibly easy also.”

  1. McKinsey & Company - "Company culture second to none, a world class place to launch or accelerate your career"

  1. The Clorox Company - “Great learn and grow culture with emphasis on work life balance. The people are great and foster a mentoring environment. Perhaps the biggest pro is the fact that the company truly values work life balance.”

  1. Nestlé Purina PetCare - “Competitive salaries, encouraged work life balance, professional development, and a great culture that makes "Big" feel personal and family friendly.”

  1. Paylocity - “Company that values employees and creates a culture that allows employees to be happy and comfortable at work. Company that still feels like a small business even with rapid growth. Fun upbeat place to work.”

  1. SAP - “Working with very talented colleagues. A lot of career growth opportunities and the ability to move into new roles, new groups. A company that truly values its employees and treats them well.”

  1. MathWorks - “Just an amazing place full of smart and passionate people that want to do the right thing. Very positive and constructive culture. Management Team truly lead by the values they preach.”

  1. Salesforce - “The company culture is fantastic. The value that we all share is "Ohana" -- family. The work environment is friendly, supportive, inclusive. At my new employee orientation an SVP told us that the top three values are: honesty, kindness, meeting commitments. Kindness?? I couldn't believe it, but it turns out to be true.”

  1. Forrester - “The execs are grounded and approachable (and mostly affable). You have an opportunity to make a difference, take charge of your own career and aspirations. The culture is one that fosters accountability and action in all of us. I've been working at Forrester for 18 years and still feel appreciated and I am still able to do rewarding and meaningful work.”

  1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - “The greatest benefit of working for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the satisfaction of being a part of something important and knowing that you are doing something meaningful. It is nice to be in a job where you feel trusted and respected, and where the employer has a high level of loyalty to the employee.”

  1. Intuit -  “I've been in the Silicon Valley my entire life and have worked with some of the biggest Tech companies around. I've also known Intuit as a great place to work and great people to work with. But I didn't know until I got here how innovative we are. Everyone is encouraged to innovate - not just engineers. It's expected, it's supported and we cherish the learnings - good or bad.”

  1. Delta Airlines - Challenging, fast-paced industry, and Delta treats employees well. Good compensation and great benefits. Diverse work environment and everyone loves travel. Good opportunities to advance.”

  1. Memorial Sloan Kettering - “Very intelligent, friendly and team-oriented group of people. I love working for MSK. There is a great sense of pride and responsibility to our patients and ensuring things get done right.”

  1. DocuSign - “Growing company, amazing people, good work/life balance, and lots of opportunities for career growth and development.”

  1. Concur - “Good growth opportunities as a professional. Awesome work life balance. Great people and co-workers. Spend time and money on individual career growth.”

  1. Akamai - “Fast-paced environment with an energy level that is contagious. I have never worked with so many smart and talented individuals who are always willing to help each other out.”

  1. Johnson & Johnson - “This company fosters a great Teamwork atmosphere and allows for plenty of growth opportunities. Woking here provides me with a sense of security and pride that what I do here impacts our customers.”

  1. H E B - “Culture is fantastic, partners work hard, everyone seems to understand how their role fits to the success of the company.”

  1. Southwest Airlines - “Flight benefits, amazing 401(k) matching, many insurance options, and a great company culture. You can tell they really value their employees.”

  1. Zillow - “Innovative, fast moving, fast growing company with great people who love to come to work every day. We have very smart people here to learn from, excellent people who do their jobs well so we can do our job well. We work hard, but have a lot of fun. The work life balance is great.”

  1. NVIDIA - “The culture is direct, open, and honest with minimal politics. There are a lot of A-type personalities, hence when a problem arises, the team swarms to resolve it. Leadership cares passionately about the health, and well-being of the staff, providing people with flexibility in work / life balance.”

  1. Keller Williams - “Support from leadership. Great training. Lovely people and very friendly office. Great meetings and learning opportunities.”

  1. Genentech - “Great benefits (including long maternity leave), good team environment, flexibility with schedule, people are really passionate, intelligent and driven.”

  1. Trader Joe's - “Co workers treat each other like family. Exceptional customer service standards, amazing management & company allows people to shine as individuals.”

  1. Costco Wholesale - “People matter here. The culture is casual and job security is strong. Many managers and areas take employee development to heart. There's a lot of opportunity to learn and grow. The company takes its mission statement and Code of Ethics seriously.”

  1. Airbnb - “The people at Airbnb are amazing- everyone is genuinely smart, enthusiastic, and friendly. The employees deeply care about the company mission and the well-being of the Airbnb community.”

  1. Apple - “Excellent health care benefits and work environment. Every individual is responsible for his/her work, when at the same time, everyone is part of a team. Love Steve Jobs' model.”

  1. Microsoft - “Comp is pretty good and the benefits are world-class including a healthy 401K match, tuition reimbursement, meals, gym reimbursement, 3 months paid maternity/paternity leave, retention bonuses and grants are easy to get...Great work-life balance.”

  1. Lululemon - “Great company and corporate culture...They provide vision and goals coaching and support your pursuit of goals inside and outside of the company.”

  1. FedEx Freight - “Good salary. Excellent benefits. Great equipment. Best management. Work with great people.”

  1. SpaceX - “Always interesting work. It is literally rocket science!”

  1. BASF Corporation - “Values its employees’ well-being, great benefits, market place discounts, global presence allows for more opportunities to grow your career.”

  1. Texas Instruments - “The culture at TI is awesome. The environment is laid back and the people you get to work with are always willing to help out when needed...Work flexibility and ability to maintain work/life balance are very appealing.”

  1. Raising Cane's - “Many opportunities to move up. Awesome management. Good pay and vacations. Flexible availability and able to take time off whenever you want.”

  1. Mayo Clinic - “The company offers excellent benefits. It provides a variety of departments which allows employees the flexibility to move around the company. The employees understand and respect diversity.”

  1. IKEA - “Flexible, very friendly environment with co-workers, great benefits including health/education assistance/holiday+social gatherings, great environment for working moms.”

  1. Aegis Living - “Management truly cares about our employees, and when our employees are supported, loved, and fulfilled, they can provide heartfelt care to our residents. I see room to advance within the company and have mentors who support my personal and professional growth and development...We hire quality people, making it a joy to come to work everyday. I go home and share with people in my life how much I love my job, which I've learned is very rare!”

  1. E. & J. Gallo Winery - “This is a great place to grow your career long-term. The dynamic industry presents a lot of exciting challenges, there are a wide variety of career opportunities to keep you growing and developing your skills, and the great people make it fun to come to work each day. Many of my colleagues have been here 15+ years, and they're still excited to come to work each day thanks to the fun of the industry and the great people.”

  1. QuikTrip - “Full Benefits, excellent full time weekly hours, set schedule, focused on employee growth and well-being, charity & donation centered. The company has been faithful to the standards it set from my "time of hire" and never strayed from being honest and true to its core values.”

  1. Gensler - “Lots of continuing education. Community corporate culture. Comfortable office. Normal office hours. Salary and benefits are competitive.”

  1. Wegmans Food Markets - “Wegmans really cares about its employees. They really help employees learn and grow to achieve their own career goals. Everyone is very friendly and your manager cares about you.”

Looking through the reviews of these companies, a few themes seem to connect many of the top 50 winners. Caring management that values employees ranks highly. Work-life balance comes up again and again. And strong corporate cultures that define and live up to the company’s ethics and goals for impact are threads that bind many of these “best places to work.”

For businesses that have corporate volunteer programs, it’s insightful to see the organizational attributes that make employees across so many different kinds of companies and industries happy, and then consider how you can leverage your program to amplify these qualities in your own company. So much of the praise in these reviews can find a nexus in giving back. When you make social impact a fundamental part of your culture, you cleave employees together in a pursuit that makes them feel better about themselves and your company. Strong programs build a sense of community and belonging, of going back to the basics of what’s really important in life and connecting your company to that spirit of simplicity and kindness.

In other words, hygge.


Your program should be a prominent channel for how you communicate your values to your employees, cultivating a sense of work-life balance, caring about your employees and their passions, and building a culture that resonates with good feeling. Your employees may not describe your company as hygge, but when you surround them with a palpable ethos of goodwill towards the issues they care about and their own personal and professional development through cause, the feelings you instill are as welcoming as cashmere socks.

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