Norway Work Culture

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Work Culture

To succeed in business in Norway, it is vital for both employers and employees to have a strong understanding of the business culture.

As a global PEO (Professional Employment Organization) it is our goal to be familiar and updated with the business culture in the country we work with and in. By sharing our knowledge about Norwegian work culture, we want to support your global expansion plans. Therefore, we will address all the aspects of the work culture in Norway to start your expansion well-informed.

Norway is one of the world’s most prosperous nations – while its stunning landscapes of forests, fjords, lakes, and mountains are an added bonus for foreign nationals moving there for their work. Add the visual magic of the Northern Lights and it is easy to see why Norway – both in terms of work and leisure – offers so many attractions.

Economically, Norway ranked as the 28th ‘freest’ economy in the world in 2021 and 15th out of 45 countries in the European continent. Norway was placed 32nd in the world with nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of 445 billion US dollars, with predicted growth of 4.2% into 2022. Norway is not a member of the European Union (EU) but is strongly linked to the economic bloc through its membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) alongside Iceland and Liechtenstein. All EU nations are members of the EEA.

The employment market is highly competitive, with demand for highly skilled professionals in key sectors such as IT and healthcare, hospitality, engineering and tourism as well as their ‘powerhouse’ sectors of oil and petroleum, shipping, minerals and fisheries.

You have made the move and now it is time to get down to business. So here are a few tips on taking the right steps and avoiding the pitfalls!

  • Language: With a relatively small population, Norwegians are realistic about the limited number of Norwegian speakers globally. Many are multi-lingual in the business environment. Even so an interpreter is advisable if you are not fluent in Norwegian and cannot be sure your counterparts are fluent in English or the relevant language. In any case … learn some basic phrases
  • Business Meetings: Participation by everyone present is usual and consensus is valued but expect the decisions to come from the top. Norwegians are modest and polite, but can be direct and expect straightforward discussions
  • Negotiations: These will be based on an agenda; Norwegians will be well-prepared for the discussions and expect the other side to be the same
  • Punctuality: Being on time is regarded as especially important in showing respect and courtesy to the other side. The same applies to social occasions – if the invite says, ‘Dinner at 8’, be there on time
  • Greetings: Allow personal space after shaking hands with everyone present and use both first name and surname in introductions. Do not be over-effusive as Norwegians tend to regard phrases such as “very pleased to meet you” superfluous
  • Dress Code: Formal for both men and women – suits, ties for the men; dresses or trouser suits for female members of the meeting
  • Business Meals: Lunches are generally an adjunct to the business meetings, but dinners tend to be social so in the evening wait for the host to initiate any discussion about the business
  • Gift-giving: Not usual at initial meetings, due to wariness over bribery, but maybe at the conclusion of the deal
  • Be careful: Norway is part of Scandinavia, but do not assume Norwegians are anything like Danes, Swedes, or Finns

Norway’s Minimum Wage

Norway does not have a ‘national minimum wage’ as these are set at varying levels in nine industrial / commercial sectors. Categories are grouped as construction workers, electricians, hotel and catering staff, and other workers in transport and freight, maritime, agriculture, fisheries and maintenance roles. Rates also depend on whether employees are skilled or unskilled and on their ages.

Rates set in July 2021 include:

  • Skilled general construction workers per hour, NOK 220 (€21, US$24)
  • Skilled electricians per hour, NOK 221.15 (€21, US$24)
  • Hotel and catering workers over 20 years old, per hour NOK 175.47 (€17, US$19)

Employers must ensure regulations are rigidly followed at the risk of fines or even imprisonment if the Labor Inspection Authority reports infringements to the police. Where employees are covered by Collective Bargaining Agreements (tariffavtaler) that exceed statutory minimums, these will apply.

Probation Periods in Norway

The legal maximum is six months and cannot be extended by the employer. In the case of sick leave during probation, the trial period can be extended by an equivalent amount of time. A probationer requires 14 days’ notice.

Working Hours in Norway

The Working Environment Act regulates working hours, which should not generally exceed nine over 24 hours or 40 hours over seven days. The guidelines are adjusted for shift workers and those who work at weekends, not to exceed 36 or 38 hours over seven days according to the category of employment. Other more beneficial arrangements can exist contractually or by collective agreements, which generally restrict hours to 37.5 per week where they apply. Such agreements must be verified by the Labor Inspection Authority. Employers must keep a record of hours worked. There must be at least one break after working for five-and-a-half hours and a total of 30 minutes’ break in eight hours work. There must be at least 11 hours continuous rest over 24 hours and 35 hours continuous rest over seven days.

Overtime in Norway

The Working Environment Act allows time-limited overtime when there is an exceptional need. The limits are no more than: 10 hours over seven days; 25 hours over four consecutive weeks; 200 hours over 52 weeks.

Total working hours are 13 over 24 hours or 48 over seven days, although the 48-hours limit can be averaged over eight weeks. Statutory minimum overtime pay is 40% above the normal hourly rate.

Time off in lieu of overtime can be agreed. Other more beneficial arrangements can exist contractually or by collective agreements but must be verified by the Labor Inspection Authority. The Working Environment Act stipulates that managerial staff and those working with high levels of independence are precluded from overtime.