10 July 2006
America: Land of the free?
Americans have more disposable income than many other countries, value family time, have a very well developed leisure and recreation economy yet have next to no time to enjoy it in.
The standard annual vacation when you join a US company is 10 days (plus about 9 federal holidays). So there goes your two week break in the summer then. Take that and there's no time off at any other time of the year. The standard UK holidays are 20 days minumum with at least 25 being more usual. Then there's usually 8 public holidays on top of that. This year, I have 34 days annual leave, 33 of which I can take when I choose. This is against a background of most independent observers saying that people in the UK work too hard and work more than our European neighbours.
Perhaps an American company could offer European holidays, with a corresponding reduction in salary and see how much more productive its workforce becomes when they can enjoy all that money they've earned, spend time with their families, enjoy recreational time and get enough holiday to have a decent break abroad.
Would Americans take an 6% salary cut for an extra three weeks of annual leave to bring them onto a par with Europe or would Europeans prefer a 6% raise to get American holidays? Most of us need the money, but how much holiday is enough for a productive and happy workforce?
Given a choice, though, I'm sure many people over there would like to adjust the work-life balance a bit.
My current and previous employers here in the UK both have schemes allowing the individual to adjust the amount of annual leave in exchange for more or less salary, with reasonable upper and lower limits.
That is the way forward, in my opinion.
America is a study in burn out. The reality here is the same as in the rest of the world, most companies are carried by a dedicated few, the remainder fill in the blanks when they can be bothered to stop posting comments on blogs (oooops)
US and Scottish education compared.
I've worked back and forth between US/EU for several years and do believe there are myths on both sides.
The US could do with more vacation time/chilling and the EU could do with more liberal labor laws.
Thats a very generalistic comment and varys enormously by sector/region/different companies etc.
There is also a difference (changing now with globalisation and wealth spreading) in living standards, whats deemed 2 b important, material assets, house/cars etc..
So sometimes a lot of "work habits" are based on lifestyle and not just a productivity stat