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Why working in Iceland is a good idea

1. Work-life balance

If there is one thing Icelanders value, it is a healthy work-life balance. Icelanders are very family-centric—not surprising given the island's population of 360,000. An average Icelandic workweek is 40 hours, including lunchtime and breaks, and is very often flexible. Icelanders tend to complain if their commute passes the 30-minute mark, so travel times are reasonable relative to much of the world. In the Reykjavik vicinity, there are many public bus lines. Many prefer to cycle to work on the extensive bike lane network.

Icelandic companies are typically family-friendly and flexible, understanding that there are dentist appointments, teacher's meetings, and calls to pick up a sick child. Summer holidays are generous, there are 16 public holidays (red days), and much of Iceland seems to shut down in July. Probably not a coincidence considering July is one of the best weather months, and many of the kindergartens are closed!

2. Equality at work

Iceland has been a leader in gender equality since 2009. While there is still room to improve, the gender pay gap for the same job is only 4.5%. In 2017, the Icelandic government instituted Equal Pay Certification for more salary transparency. Larger workplaces must prove that they pay their employees the same wage for the same job without discriminating based on sex.

Paternal leave is also equal for both parents, each allowed three months at home with their newborn, with an extra three months to split between them for nine months with 80% pay during that time (capped at 520,000 ISK per month). After nine months, many parents bring their child to a "day parent" (Dagforeldrar) until the age of two, when they qualify for a kindergarten.

3. Easygoing business environment

Icelandic business culture is not very hierarchal, and no matter where you work in the company, everyone is treated equally. Because of the patronymic naming system, everyone is addressed by their first name, which makes the business environment less formal than elsewhere. Networking is relatively easy since the population is so small. Do you have a new idea and want to talk to a particular person? More than likely, you probably work with someone who can connect you to them. 

Meetings tend to be brief and to the point, with an honest conversation about what needs to happen next. Culturally, this can take some getting used to but makes for efficient meetings. Many meetings also occur in a casual atmosphere, over lunch or coffee. 

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4. Strong social protection

Iceland functions under the familiar Nordic system of tripartite collaboration between employers, unions, and government. The three parties work together to seek mutually beneficial improvements, such as worker safety, wages, and the working environment. Tripartite collaboration encourages politicians and social partners to compromise and seek agreement to solve challenges while building societal trust and legitimacy.

5. Value innovation and creative approach

Despite its small size, Iceland is remarkable at developing innovative solutions and creative output. Perhaps this is due to Iceland's relative isolation for so long, the long winters, or inspiration from the stunning scenery. It is more than likely boils down to the robust and inclusive Nordic welfare system. The tax-financed social benefits of childcare, healthcare, parental leave, and high-quality education—and affordable university options—encourage individuals to pursue their passions and explore new ways of doing things without fear of "falling through the cracks." Combined with the Icelandic knack for ingenuity, many startups have flourished in Iceland, discovering unique solutions for meeting business needs globally.