Around the world, Americans are known for their solid work ethic.
Here in the United States, we place a premium on hard work.
However, that might actually be detrimental to us.
If you are looking for a good work/life balance, the fact that you leave an average of 11 vacation days on the table (according to CNN Money) could be a bad thing.
It might even reduce your productivity level.
How Does U.S. Vacation Time Stack Up against Other Countries
We take much less vacation than other countries.
In fact, many countries require companies to give a certain number of paid vacation days for employees with 10 years of services. The United States isn’t one of those countries, but China is (10 paid vacation days). Other countries include the United Kingdom, with 28, and Japan with 20.
Even though the United States doesn’t require companies to provide paid vacation, there are plenty of companies that offer paid vacation days, or at least the option to take personal time off. However, when you compare the United States with many other countries, the gap still remains. Even though they aren’t required to, many companies in other countries provide plenty of vacation time, whether it’s paid or not.
Every year, Expedia commissions Harris Interactive to put together a survey of vacation time taken by countries around the world. Many might be surprised to learn that Germans earn about 30 vacation days a year, and the vast majority of those days are taken. Since Germany is perceived as one of the more productive and stable countries, it appears that vacation doesn’t mean inherent laziness.
Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and India all blow the United States away as well (although in India more vacation days are left on the table). It seems as though countries that repeatedly make the list of happiest countries in the world (think Nordic countries) also have a large number of vacation days — and they use them. The United States doesn’t make the top 10 — although it is number 12.
Perhaps, if Americans took a little more time off, they would be happier. We could enjoy greater work/life balance, and perhaps even be more productive.
Can More Time Off Lead to Better Productivity?
According to some studies, 35-hour workweeks mean more productivity. Think Germany (again).
Germany is among the most productive countries in the world, and its workweek is shorter than the “official” 40-hour workweek in the United States, and there are more vacation days involved. While the United States beats out Germany, the United States doesn’t beat out Norway, which repeatedly ranks high in terms of vacation, happiness, and productivity.
The lesson is that you don’t have to sacrifice productivity when you take more time off.
A few years ago, a Harvard business school professor, Leslie A. Perlow, led a study that discovered that predictable (and forced) time off led to increased productivity. Numerous studies have been conducted on the importance of vacations in reducing stress and anxiety, and on improving your level of productivity.
Americans are stressed out, and work a lot.
As a result, between the commute and doing work at home after business hours are over, and even taking our work with us on vacation, quality of life is affected. Even if your productivity doesn’t dramatically improve when you take time off, you can improve your quality of life.
Is Quality of Life More Important than Money?
In my own life, I see that quality of life can be more important than money.
Every year or so, I find that my client workload has increased to the point where I am frazzled, stressed, and unhappy. I may be making more money, but I’m also frustrated with my life. When I re-evaluate my work time, and cut clients, I usually feel better. I might be making a little less money, but I have time to spend with my family, and time to spend doing the things I like best.
Plus, I have the time to actually enjoy the money I’m making. I’d rather be able to do more with the money I have, than pile up a cash hoard but never be able to use it because I’m too busy working.