BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Work in a large company in Sweden or Latvia and you are more likely to be happy with your job, work flexible hours, have a chance to go part-time or gradually work less as you retire, a report said on Wednesday. But the opposite is most likely in a medium-sized industrial company in Portugal or Greece, according to the report by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, a European Union agency. The study looked at what kind of balance employees have between their work and private life, asking 21,000 companies in most EU countries about issues such as flexitime, family-related leave, retirement and part-time work. On most issues, the study revealed a clear north-south divide, with companies in the Mediterranean having a more rigid working structure. Jorma Karppinen, director of the agency, cited a number of reasons for this, stemming from the historically different way of life and attitude between the north and south. «Perhaps life in southern Europe has always been easier than in northern countries,» he said. «In the northern countries people have had to adapt more in order simply to survive. A matter of trust «One factor which also influences is the level of trust between employers and employees – how much trust there is and how much control. It seems that the control aspect is much stronger in southern Europe,» he said. In general, the study found very large companies and small businesses were the most flexible about working hours and absences. «Large companies have well developed policies and small companies are, by their very nature, flexible because they have to trust each other,» Karppinen said. «The middle ranks of companies don’t have developed policies – they may not have human resources managers who develop such schemes.» Both managers and employees said flexible working hours improved job satisfaction, made workers efficient and lowered the level of absenteeism. It was also good for employers, allowing them to spend less on overtime pay.