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mod (Andy) note: "Blast from the past - Best of Eddie" - This one is originally from May 2011. If there's an old post from Eddie you'd like to see up again shoot me a message.

Did you know that the U.S. is the only industrialized nation in the world where paid vacation is not mandatory? I'll admit, I was kinda surprised by that. But it's true. And it may be costing us productivity, at least according to Take Back Your Time - a U.S. and Canadian initiative to "challenge the epidemic of overwork".

I remember all the hype about the Internet in the late '90s. We would all be telecommuting from home and working in our underwear because the Internet would free us from the office. Productivity tools like Palm Pilots (lol) and eventually BlackBerries would free us up to roam the globe, lay on the beach, and still get our work done.

In fact the exact opposite became reality.

Where we used to be able to go home at the end of the day and pretty much forget about work until the next morning, now we're on-call 24 hours a day. Work has followed us home, and there is no escaping emails, cell phone calls, and texts from bosses and co-workers. And thanks to high-speed connectivity, employers can now expect us to work from home after we've called it a day.

The U.S. is obviously the worst offender when it comes to overworking employees, but several other countries aren't that far behind. The difference is, employers in those countries are required to provide paid time off for their employees - and lots of it, in some cases.

For example, no one would accuse German workers of a lack of productivity. They're recognized as the hardest working people in Europe. But it might surprise you to find out that German workers must be given a minimum of four weeks paid vacation per year. And they have to take it.

The French give their workers six weeks off with pay each year, in addition to a 35-hour work week. Sweden offers workers five weeks paid vacation, and beat the U.S. handily in the World Economic Forums 2010-2011 Rankings. We work longer hours (by far), take fewer and shorter vacations (by far), and we're still not beating them:

However, Americans work more hours per year than workers in most other developed economies. This is why, measured as value added per hour worked, Norway has the highest labour productivity level (US$ 37.99), followed by the United States (US$ 35.63) and France (US$ 35.08).

This lack of vacation takes a toll, too. Men who don't regularly vacation are 30% more likely to experience heart disease. Women are 50% more likely.

Now I ask you: if you had a choice between your current working situation (80+ hour weeks, no vacation, increased risk of heart disease) to earn a pro-rated $35.63 an hour versus $35.08 an hour under the French system where you're given six weeks paid vacation per year, which would you choose and why? And do you think paid vacation should be mandated by law in the U.S.?

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Comments (70)

  • Schwarzmanegger's picture

    You = socialist.

    If it were efficient to give paid vacation, more employers would offer paid vacation so they can bring in the same quality people with lower overall compensation. But Americans prefer working hard and earning more money.

    Also, Germans are lazy. The French are jokes. Sure it may be great for the employees, but forcing employers to lose out on productivity like that kills incentive for entrepreneurship and effective management/leadership.

  • In reply to Schwarzmanegger
    Edmundo Braverman's picture

    Schwarzmanegger:
    You = socialist.

    If it were efficient to give paid vacation, more employers would offer paid vacation so they can bring in the same quality people with lower overall compensation. But Americans prefer working hard and earning more money.

    Also, Germans are lazy. The French are jokes. Sure it may be great for the employees, but forcing employers to lose out on productivity like that kills incentive for entrepreneurship and effective management/leadership.

    Tell me if you feel the same way a couple years after you graduate high school.

  • mxc's picture

    I'm very much a free markets guy, but I agree with you, Edmundo.

    Imagine employees had a choice between some vacation and no vacation. Most people would take no vacation at all, because doing otherwise would jeopardize their career.

    Why do we do so? Competition. We get ourselves into unfavorable Nash equilibria with our coworkers because we all covet the same limited spots. The government helps us find a Pareto-efficient solution by *forcing* us to take time off.

    It's a good thing - broadly.

    What's the tradeoff, here? On the one hand, paid holidays increase the general well-being of the population. On the other hand, it restricts the freedom of those among us who want to work more, to make more. Eddie, I'm sure you've heard of "Travailler plus pour gagner plus".

    Is there a real optimum? I doubt it. I just know I'm happy to have 20 days off (in London). Apologies to you guys if you'd like to work more :-)

  • In reply to Schwarzmanegger
    16rl's picture

    @Schwarzmanegger : Could you explain how you link a comparison between labor productivity and vacation time with socialism ?

    Btw, you can work a shitload of hours, but if you are not productive, its completely useless. Also, one needs vacations to relax, otherwise there is a high risk of burning out in the long-run.

    Why the heck would you want to work, earn money and not be able to spend it ? If you dont take any vacations and forbid yourself enjoy your life, then working your ass off is useless.

  • In reply to Schwarzmanegger
    WalMartShopper's picture

    Where is blackfinancier to call out a troll when you need him??

    Anyone that shouts socialist as a response on WSO is obviously a troll, and the Germans are lazy comment had me laphing owt lowd

    Not to mention the vacation benefit is for the majority of the country that does not pull home +100k and has no interest in entrepreneurship etc...

    Schwarzmanegger:
    You = socialist.

    If it were efficient to give paid vacation, more employers would offer paid vacation so they can bring in the same quality people with lower overall compensation. But Americans prefer working hard and earning more money.

    Also, Germans are lazy. The French are jokes. Sure it may be great for the employees, but forcing employers to lose out on productivity like that kills incentive for entrepreneurship and effective management/leadership.

    If the glove don't fit, you must acquit!

  • veritas14's picture

    Western Europeans NEED more vacation. The birth rates are below replacement levels. Their populations are aging. America is a young society with fresh legs. We work because we can.

    More vacation time is a form of compensation. European companies generally offer lower wages.

    When you mandate compensation levels you have set an artificial floor on the cost of labor. Add in high taxes, labor unions, insane regulations on the hiring/firing of employees and Europe arguably has the highest labor costs on the planet. This is why Europe traditionally has higher unemployment than America.

    Compensation requirements are biased towards those who HAVE A JOB. But they do nothing for those who are unemployed.

    *********************************
    "The American father is never seen in London. He passes his life entirely in Wall Street and communicates with his family once a month by means of a telegram in cipher." - Oscar Wilde

  • IlliniProgrammer's picture

    Ok, but since vacations allow workers to be more productive, most employers already offer paid time off. Employees also often demand it. There is a free-market solution to this, Eddie. We don't need to get the government involved in mandating minimum vacation times.

  • bossman's picture

    I don' t think this is really a free markets issue. Someone for that theory would say well if workers work more and they are willing then it doesn't make sense for the company to waste money on paying them more. It would be uneconomical. However, economics breaks down when it comes to employment satisfaction. If i had to work 100 hours I would, but everyone knows that my productivity would not stay the same (tired, bored, unfocused, stressed). Just look at SAS Institute, best employer for the longest time and one of the most successful firms. They don't believe in socialism, but they treat their employees great.

    American culture has so many things mixed up with free market and working hard for success motos that things like employee accommodations have been forgotten. Mind you these would actually be beneficial for both employees and employers. I'm not sure the behavior is changeable in a short period of time, but some readjust must be made eventually. Anyone knows that success requires hard work, determination and so on, but smart work should not be ignored.

    Do what you want not what you can!

  • ragnar danneskjöld's picture

    Haven't taken more than 5 consecutive days off in 4 years; never taken more than 2 weeks off in any given year. Have lost more vacation than I've taken.

    My opinion, if you can manage your job well enough to take time away without losing productivity then by all means have at it. However I think you'll find those who regularly use all of their days are likely to be less driven, less productive, and salaried with no work:performance compensation.

    My brother lives in Melbourne, AUS, and speaks regularly about their work/life balance... He also complains about his hourly staffs 38.5 hour full time work week, and the ridiculous number of holidays including the month they take off for Xmas.

    America didn't become the largest economy in the world by adopting pansy vacation and work schedules. It worked and saved for retirement.

  • Aggravate's picture

    Vacation has become the new "face-time" at a lot of places. Have 3-5 weeks of PTO? Take only one to show everyone how much you mean business! I think that is the mentality that a lot of people have, so government mandated vacations make some sense to me. To me its not different then the ass hole that's stays until everyone has left the office, then leaves 5 minutes later to project the appearance that he's always at work. I'd like to say all bosses and compensation meetings notice weasel moves like this, but the fact of the the matter is they do not. Take two people that are otherwise equal in performance and if they are straddling a tier in rating, the more hours guy is going to win out. I have been in these meetings and watched others do this exact calculus. Shit, I'll even engage in this kind of critiquing as well.

    The vast majority of my 9-5 work day is filled with sitting on calls or in meetings, 50% of which are not productive. Then I have to do real work for another 4 hours or so. If we had mandatory working hours or mandatory vacations, I think it would force people to be more efficient with their time. The point Eddie is trying to make is that these Western European countries are for the most part equally, if not more productive, in absolute terms. So clearly they are doing a much better job on an hourly basis than we are. At this point I honestly believe the difference between a 40-hour week and a 80-hour week is comprised of waiting around, unnecessary meetings and realizing you are on version 16 of a document that was perfectly good at version 4. If you don't agree with this and actually WORK FULL TIME in a real job, I'd actually be interested to know how you fill those 80-hours with value-added productivity.

    On a side note, I feel like it wasn't always the case where I was having a conversation with only about 8 dudes on this forum actually working for a living. Seems like its nothing but trolls, posers and the obnoxious college juniors have been replaced with college freshmen and high school kids.

  • veritas14's picture

    Much of this conversation seems to presume a static world.

    Your job isn't guaranteed. Your company will not always be solvent. Your country's competitive position will change.

    Is Europe or America in a better position for the next 50 years?

    *********************************
    "The American father is never seen in London. He passes his life entirely in Wall Street and communicates with his family once a month by means of a telegram in cipher." - Oscar Wilde

  • ke18sb's picture

    I think a lot of people are looking at this from the wrong perspective - that of thinking about this in terms of white collar high performing jobs where you are rewarded handsomely for your hard work and talent. Basically every professional job gets two weeks vacation at least and that figure typically grows with time. All my friends in banking, pe, corp dev, law, etc. take vacations. Maybe not 3 week trips around south america but vacation is taking.

    The real losers here are the ones that are doing unskilled labor jobs making minimum wageish rates and barely able to support their families. They are working 12 hour days 6 days a week and there is literally no light at the end of the tunnel. These are the type of people that regulations are meant to protect.

    I think people would gladly earn 11/12 of their annual wage to be given a month vacation. The problem is it's not an option. At the unskilled labor level companies would not be losing productivity by their employees taking vacation it would just be a matter of having the proper human resource management to execute the scheduling. As by definition unskilled labor is easily replaceable.

  • In reply to ke18sb
    veritas14's picture

    ke18sb:
    I think a lot of people are looking at this from the wrong perspective - that of thinking about this in terms of white collar high performing jobs where you are rewarded handsomely for your hard work and talent. Basically every professional job gets two weeks vacation at least and that figure typically grows with time. All my friends in banking, pe, corp dev, law, etc. take vacations. Maybe not 3 week trips around south america but vacation is taking.

    The real losers here are the ones that are doing unskilled labor jobs making minimum wageish rates and barely able to support their families. They are working 12 hour days 6 days a week and there is literally no light at the end of the tunnel. These are the type of people that regulations are meant to protect.

    I think people would gladly earn 11/12 of their annual wage to be given a month vacation. The problem is it's not an option. At the unskilled labor level companies would not be losing productivity by their employees taking vacation it would just be a matter of having the proper human resource management to execute the scheduling. As by definition unskilled labor is easily replaceable.

    Those low skilled workers aren't salaried. They are hourly employees. They don't take vacation because they don't get paid if they don't work.

    Companies that heavily rely on unskilled labor often have the thinnest margins. If you suddenly mandate paid vacation for hourly employees, you will see increased unemployment among low skilled workers as you have just incentivized the employer to automate/outsource.

    *********************************
    "The American father is never seen in London. He passes his life entirely in Wall Street and communicates with his family once a month by means of a telegram in cipher." - Oscar Wilde

  • In The Flesh's picture

    I agree with veritas, there are always tradeoffs. If there is more paid vacation time that's fine, but then there also has to be a cut in salary, benefits, etc. somewhere else.

    A lot of us aren't pointing out the obvious: that if the government gets involved in legislating paid vacation time, ALL workers from 20-55, will be forced to take that time off. These demographics have different priorities as far as work/life balance; younger employees are more willing to work longer hours anyway, while older people are getting ready to slow down. It's foolish to think one size can fit all in this case.

    Metal. Music. Life. www.headofmetal.com

  • The Man's picture

    What I'm hearing some people here say is that if citizens, for whatever reason, do not want to do something, then, because y'all are such experts on what's best for society, the government should force people to do it anyway. I think that's disturbing.

    Also, many employers do insist on employees taking time off.

  • TheKing's picture

    I think the point that Eddie was getting at wasn't one of free-markets, but one of whether or not we are valuing our time as we should. In other words, we're working ourselves to the bone, and probably unnecessarily.

    I'm definitely in the boat of belief that people work better if they have more free time to balance their lives with. I feel like I'd be more productive over a 4 day work week with 3 days off than I currently am in a 5 day week. Think about how much time is wasted on "calls" and duplicative meetings that run longer than they should, not to mention how much time is wasted procrastinating on sites like this one (let's be honest, we all do it.)

    As an example to back my thinking up, anyone who has worked as a banking analyst knows that pitching is awful. However, if given the choice between a "quick turnaround" pitch with 24-48 hours from start to finish vs. a pitch that you have 2 weeks to work on, it's always better to work on the quick turnaround pitch. Why? Because all that happens with more time, is that you do more iterations and think and rethink the pitch again and again until you are out of time. You spend 2 weeks turning a pitch and end up with basically the same product you would with 24 hours to complete a pitch. Additionally, even if you have two weeks, 99% of the time, you'll be cranking around the clock the night before anyway.

    And anyone that comes in with the "that's socialist!" crap has never worked and has no understanding of how the real world works. More free time and more control of one's own time would, in my opinion, have tremendously positive implications on people's sanity, well being, and the economy as a whole.

  • sleeplessinlondon's picture

    I have mixed feelings about this subject.

    Growing up and educated in the US I was instilled with the mindset that hard-work, beyond all else, was the key to success...and honestly I still believe this.

    After college I moved to London, where despite being a banking center, clearly lacks the same tempo and work ethic of the US namely NYC. I am 2nd year analyst and get by law 25 days off.... not mandatory, but we are encouraged to take them. My counterparts in NYC get 15 days + 3 personal days (so basically 18) but have less flexibility as to how and when they can string their holidays together.

    I most recently used 7 of my 25 days to string together a ridiculous 17 days off in a row due to the retarded royal wedding and 2 consecutive 4 days weeks (bank holiday leveraging at its best) - no one in the office even bats an eyelash when I asked my managers for the time. Had I tried to get that approved in nyc they would have laughed at me, and could possibly be earmarked for my bonus convo at year end.

    However, when it comes down to it, vacation time is just like any other economic good, People value their days based upon how much utility it gains them and consume them like anything else. The government might decide that I have to get 25 vacation days, but that really just costs me cash out of my salary. Do I like 25 days off yes, would I choose to pay for 25 days off if I had to purchase them 1 by 1, absolutely not.

    I know for a fact that my group in London gets paid less than our nyc counterparts because we are overall less prodcutive..... I get 7 more vacation days and probably work 85%-90% of the hours they do. However, myself and several other americans i have spoken to, would prefer if we could sell back some of our vacation days rather than take them or lose them.

    In reality, at 24 years old I'm not about to pass out after a 70hr work week (asset management). I dont need 5 weeks of vacation a year - and for fuck sake it tough to afford 5 weeks of vacation anywhere.... What would be nice is an option to sell it, or better yet.... have all cash compensation and an option to buy from the beginning. I understand this probably wouldn't work well in NYC as many people would try to one up eachother by consuming no holiday - and if thats worth it to them by all means go for it.

    For those of you that have flex benifits (ie enhacements to your benfits via medical, vacation, 401k matching supliments that you can deduct from your salary in addition to what you normally get), wouldnt it be nice if you could opt out of all your benefits take home something like 25% more cash with the option to buy vacation days/benefits as you deem fit? I just dont like the idea of forced consumption in any sense, vacation or otherwise.

    Don't get me wrong, I love being able to take the time off, espeically because it gives me the opportunity to travel and visit friends back in the US more often - and really there is no stigma against taking all your vacay at my firm. That said, I really don't like the idea of being forced to consume any good. If i dont take my holidays I lose them, and people dont really pat you on the back and say "keep up the hard work" they act as if you can't really handle your shit enough to balance your life (a concept that I am aware is not valued nearly as much in the US).

    I personally think that 25 days in the UK is too much mandatory holiday.... I dont need it all and I would rather have 2 weeks in additional pay.

    To address all this productivity bullshit, I dont think forced holiday really does a whole hell of a lot to benefit productivity. The numbers Eddie put out there are average productivity numbers - I'm sure even most 1st year undergrads understand the law of diminishing returns. Generally, the more hours you work the less productive per hour you are....but add up all the productivity gains and the people who work most produce the most. This is true in the US and is reflected in pay packages. The French, English, Dutch, etc may get the chance to recharge more often and because of that capture higher marginal productivity, but at the cost of additional (albeit a lower overall rate) productivity. Is this a good thing? Who knows. But I agree with Ill Prog that the government should not be making the decision for us.

    The face time culture of the US clashes with my idea of using holidays as an economic good free for consumption, and I recognize that in many places the stigma of using them could be more trouble then they are worth. But then again, choosing to work in finance is a choice. To take a line from boiler room:

    "you want vacation time? go teach third grade public school".

  • In reply to Schwarzmanegger
    bfin's picture

    Schwarzmanegger:
    You = socialist.

    If it were efficient to give paid vacation, more employers would offer paid vacation so they can bring in the same quality people with lower overall compensation. But Americans prefer working hard and earning more money.

    Also, Germans are lazy. The French are jokes. Sure it may be great for the employees, but forcing employers to lose out on productivity like that kills incentive for entrepreneurship and effective management/leadership.

    as Jeff would say KYS. Troll has been spotted.

    The answer to your question is 1) network 2) get involved 3) beef up your resume 4) repeat -happypantsmcgee

    WSO is not your personal search function.

  • TheKing's picture

    As a quick follow-on, I want to be clear that I don't think the government should legislate any sort of thing around mandatory vacations.

    That said, not taking vacation is definitely a face time thing, and I definitely see people as being worried about taking vacation because of how it will look in the office. This sort of general attitude is unhealthy and exists throughout the system.

  • veritas14's picture

    good discussion, folks. lots of good points being made.

    *********************************
    "The American father is never seen in London. He passes his life entirely in Wall Street and communicates with his family once a month by means of a telegram in cipher." - Oscar Wilde

  • In reply to Schwarzmanegger
    eokpar02's picture

    Interesting.

    I am not cocky, I am confident, and when you tell me I am the best it is a compliment.
    -Styles P

  • cplpayne's picture

    Wait....so are there any analysts on here who would actually be mad if the gov. made vacation mandatory? That takes all kinds of pressures off of you.

    "One should recognize reality even when one doesn't like it, indeed, especially when one doesn't like it." - Charlie Munger

  • In reply to cplpayne
    veritas14's picture

    cplpayne:
    Wait....so are there any analysts on here who would actually be mad if the gov. made vacation mandatory? That takes all kinds of pressures off of you.

    Possible consequences:

    Seen=
    You get more vacation days. During a 2 year analyst stint you get a few weeks off.

    Unseen=
    You miss a big transaction which affects your bonus and exit opps.
    More vacation days = increased labor costs, so less analysts are hired.
    You come back from vacation even less mentally willing to slog through long hours (this lesson was learned in the Vietnam War as soldiers were given frequent relaxation breaks over long tours of duty. They performed better with uninterrupted tours of duty and then quicker release back to the states)

    Be mindful of unseen effects.

    *********************************
    "The American father is never seen in London. He passes his life entirely in Wall Street and communicates with his family once a month by means of a telegram in cipher." - Oscar Wilde

  • TheKing's picture

    @Veritas:

    I agree with your point on unseen effects. This is why I'm more inclined to think that regular short breaks would be more effective for productivity. i.e.) the whole 4 day work week idea I posited earlier. Taking random super extended vacations kills the ability to go back to work. I think that short bursts of freedom and more condensed working sessions lead to the best overall productivity.

  • In The Flesh's picture

    You actually even see it at business schools--whether it's 4pm or 4am, the computer labs at Stern are packed with kids working. It's like we never shut off! I admire the drive and everything, but I really do hope we can tone down our workaholic attitudes...

    Metal. Music. Life. www.headofmetal.com

  • veritas14's picture

    We might note that recent studies on workplace productivity show that we DO take vacation... we take it in the form of a dozen daily internet browsing sessions, 3 trips to Starbucks, etc.

    Here's an interesting hypothetical:

    Do you want more time off, or a job you enjoy?

    *********************************
    "The American father is never seen in London. He passes his life entirely in Wall Street and communicates with his family once a month by means of a telegram in cipher." - Oscar Wilde

  • TheKing's picture

    I guess I'm arguing that we'd spend less time dicking around and more time focusing if the work week were shortened. Less time for procrastinating = less procrastination. Maybe I'm wrong though. Doesn't matter either way as it'll never happen.

  • Edmundo Braverman's picture

    @Veritas Having been in both situations I can say that I'd prefer a job I enjoyed to copious amounts of time off. That said, I don't think a month off every year is that out of line.

    Your comment about the dozen or so "mini-vacations" each day spent cruising the net or hitting Starbucks made me laugh until I considered how utterly sad that is.

  • Edmundo Braverman's picture

    @TheKing I remember when the 35-hour work week went into effect in France. It was a case of social engineering on the part of the government meant to spur hiring. The thinking was that not all the work would get done, so more people would have to be hired. As usual, the opposite occurred. Employers just increased the workload on the current employees, and everyone got the same amount done in less time. So it was arguably an increase in efficiency.

    Now here's the good part (as it relates to your 4 day work week idea). French workers were given a choice of having a half-day off every Friday, or having a whole day off every other Friday. No one can ever accuse labor in France of not knowing how to game the system. Basically, half the people chose option A and the other half chose option B. The net effect is that France went to a 4-day workweek.

    Sure, half the workforce works all day every other Friday, and the other half works a half day every Friday, but in essence the chances of your necessary counterpart being at work the same time you are on any given Friday are pretty slim. So nothing ever gets done here on Fridays, and just about everyone skies out early.

  • GoodBread's picture

    I'm a little surprised France's productivity numbers are so close to the US ones. If the govt were to finally liberalize labor laws, France could probably do very well indeed. That is if France's comparative advantage in productivity isn't just job security.

  • markner's picture

    Very interesting topic. I have lived in Europe and have family who reside all over Western Europe so I have lived and breathed both sides of the argument. I believe the biggest issue that needs to be brought up is efficiency and the lasting effects of a workaholic society.

    How many people throughout the day are optimizing their efficiency? This means that they're not texting friends, or on their facebook, or "killing" time? Just because somebody works 80 hours does that mean that they have been working diligently for 80 hours....my guess would be no. I understand recent college graduates who want to work work work, and make as much money as possible, and have no problem with never taking a break, but what unseen social consequences and effects are a result of this.

    Look at the rising divorce rates, behavioral issues in children, and just social problems which are associated with both sets of parents having to work 50+ hours a week just to get by. Look at most maternity leave policies in this country, 90 days or so? How much of this has to do with work-related stress, workers who are asked and expected to go above and beyond for the benefit of their boss most the time.

    Of course a 40 year old with a family is going to want and need more vacation time than a fresh out of college graduate who is eager to work long hours and prove himself. Asking a 40 year old with a wife and 3 kids to sit around after hours for who knows how long is fine, but this should be at least reciprocated through vacation time. Many of these posts are discussing high-paying/profile jobs, so hell if you are making 6 figures then of course there is going to be more responsibility on your shoulders to put in a little more elbow grease. But since when is life about work?

    I have family in Germany who are required to take at least 2 weeks of vacation time off at one block, and I have hear many instances when employees get paid time and a half during their vacation. Their reasoning, "you spend more money on vacation." Now look at the # of work-related stress issues in this country. Again the majority of people in this country aren't working at investment banks, they are on salary for around $40,000. These people are being asked to work more and more hours, but they're pay isn't changing, nor their vacation time.

    Job satisfaction is important, having a good work-to-life balance should be mandatory for everybody. I don't care if you're a 23 year old, you're not indestructibly and you would benefit and appreciate having a life outside of work. Imagine if people focused for 40 hours of HARD WORK during the week not because they HAD to, but because they wanted to be productive for their company knowing that they're appreciated and it's acknowledged that they have a life outside of the job as a result.

  • In reply to ragnar danneskjöld
    txjustin's picture

    ragnar danneskjold:
    Haven't taken more than 5 consecutive days off in 4 years; never taken more than 2 weeks off in any given year. Have lost more vacation than I've taken.

    My opinion, if you can manage your job well enough to take time away without losing productivity then by all means have at it. However I think you'll find those who regularly use all of their days are likely to be less driven, less productive, and salaried with no work:performance compensation.

    My brother lives in Melbourne, AUS, and speaks regularly about their work/life balance... He also complains about his hourly staffs 38.5 hour full time work week, and the ridiculous number of holidays including the month they take off for Xmas.

    America didn't become the largest economy in the world by adopting pansy vacation and work schedules. It worked and saved for retirement.

    What you wrote about someone being less driven, etc., when they use all their vacation is total BS in my opinion. I feel those that let their vacation waste are pussies who don't know how to stand up for themselves. Then again, I'm not a fresh grad so my balls hang a little lower.

    When I got hired I got 2 weeks vacation per year. You bet your sweet ass I'm taking mine. Hell, I just got back from my 2 week vacation to the British Virgin Islands.

  • West Coast rainmaker's picture

    A couple of posters mentioned that you can work 70+ hours a week at 23-24 years old- absolutely. But do you want to? Personally, I want to be more than my career, and sinking 100+ hours into IBD analyst work doesn't leave time for many other pursuits. I guess this is ok if you like your job...but I don't think anybody really likes their job more than leisure time, especially in financial services.

    Screw maximum productivity. If I want to go hit a bar, spend time with my family, or even just completely tune out, I should be able to after putting in a good day's work. Employers (not just banks) are realizing that they can monopolize more of their employee's time through fear of downsizing. I am not sure the government should intervene, but it would be encouraging to see a block of f500 corps make a formal commitment to work-life balance.

    The hours in financial services aren't even really necessary. The diminishing returns are huge: is the 30th revision really that much better than the 3rd? And does a client getting a valuation at 9am versus noon really warrant forcing employees to work late into the night? Even in your generic office job, you could probably strip 50% of "work" from the office without materially impacting results. I think of the 4 hour Work Week, when Ferriss dissects how much time we actually need to produce. We should be applying those principles to management.

    I am too young to have observed this, but when did this intensely competitive attitude enter the workplace? 40 years ago people wanted promotions and bonuses just like today, but were not willing to sleep under their desks to gain that extra edge. Seriously, when did that work/life barrier evaporate?

  • In reply to West Coast rainmaker
    veritas14's picture

    West Coast rainmaker:
    A couple of posters mentioned that you can work 70+ hours a week at 23-24 years old- absolutely. But do you want to? Personally, I want to be more than my career, and sinking 100+ hours into IBD analyst work doesn't leave time for many other pursuits. I guess this is ok if you like your job...but I don't think anybody really likes their job more than leisure time, especially in financial services.

    Screw maximum productivity. If I want to go hit a bar, spend time with my family, or even just completely tune out, I should be able to after putting in a good day's work. Employers (not just banks) are realizing that they can monopolize more of their employee's time through fear of downsizing. I am not sure the government should intervene, but it would be encouraging to see a block of f500 corps make a formal commitment to work-life balance.

    The hours in financial services aren't even really necessary. The diminishing returns are huge: is the 30th revision really that much better than the 3rd? And does a client getting a valuation at 9am versus noon really warrant forcing employees to work late into the night? Even in your generic office job, you could probably strip 50% of "work" from the office without materially impacting results. I think of the 4 hour Work Week, when Ferriss dissects how much time we actually need to produce. We should be applying those principles to management.

    I am too young to have observed this, but when did this intensely competitive attitude enter the workplace? 40 years ago people wanted promotions and bonuses just like today, but were not willing to sleep under their desks to gain that extra edge. Seriously, when did that work/life barrier evaporate?

    Again, I ask the question:

    Do you hate working long hours? Do you just hate your job?

    If you loved your job, how much time would you WILLINGLY devote to it?

    *********************************
    "The American father is never seen in London. He passes his life entirely in Wall Street and communicates with his family once a month by means of a telegram in cipher." - Oscar Wilde

  • TNA's picture

    Yeah, because the govt. dictating my time off is going to work just a well as everything else the government does.

    I didn't realize that Amtrak, social security, Medicare/aid, post office, federal budget, etc all were balanced and running like a Swiss clock. Must have happened during my lunch break.

    Turning to the government for help is like asking a blind man for directions.

  • TNA's picture

    Lol @ thinking you need work life balance at a F500. More like you need some work in that life-life balance.

  • harvardgrad08's picture

    I am not sure the government should intervene, but it would be encouraging to see a block of f500 corps make a formal commitment to work-life balance.

    I agree that it should be led, not by the government, but by individual employers. I currently work at a F500 and our company has a large commitment to work-life balance. I currently get 20 annual vacation days (with 1 year roll over if you dont use them), 10 sick days (which most people just use as extra vacation days and the company doesn't really care), and 10 paid holidays + 2 "floating" holidays (i.e. personal days). Additionally, our "tele-work" situation is great. No one cares if you work "remotely" so you have a lot of flexibility to work from home or remotely whenever you want. I probably do this on average 1 day per week...it's great for travelling. Most employees don't even log their vacations and managers don't really care. Additionally, even though I work for a group (corpdev) that works "heavier" hours than the rest of the company the head of our group still focuses on giving employees good work-life balance - face time is frowned upon, if we don't have any major deals going on, etc. most of the team will not even come in to work and will work from home...the head of our group wants people to be home early for dinner with their families (he's a big family man) so he really pushes everyone to be productive during the day so that you can leave by 6pm, etc. Out of all my friends (bankers, consultants, PE/VC, etc.) I definitely have the best work-life balance and in all reality my total comp is not significantly lower (considering that I probably work 50% the hours they work).

  • Edmundo Braverman's picture

    I completely forgot about Netflix's vacation policy until we started discussing this:

    Netflix lets its staff take as much holiday as they want, whenever they want - and it works

    At Netflix, the vacation policy is audaciously simple and simply audacious. Salaried employees can take as much time off as they'd like, whenever they want to take it. Nobody - not employees themselves, not managers - tracks vacation days.

    In other words, Netflix's holiday policy is to have no policy at all.

    If that sounds like a recipe for anarchic stew, devoid of essential workplace nutrients such as temperance and hard work, think again. In its own way, Netflix's non-policy is more attuned to the nature of 21st century work, and even to the values of industriousness and self-discipline, than its sterner counterparts.

  • veritas14's picture

    You beat me to it, Eddie!

    Netflix is brilliant.

    Compensation is streamlined: fat salaries. Bonuses, options, etc are junked.

    Demand the best: fire the worst employees, constantly seek the best.

    Everyone has the ability to generate ideas, develop projects. They are in the business of risk taking since their business itself isn't life-or-death (they stream media)

    *********************************
    "The American father is never seen in London. He passes his life entirely in Wall Street and communicates with his family once a month by means of a telegram in cipher." - Oscar Wilde

  • UFOinsider's picture

    I don't think any new rules NEED to be made:
    * people who can and want to work a lot go into finance, the military, etc...
    * People who value time off and can afford it go into teaching, work part time, etc...

    Off time is useful for non-leisure reasons:
    * free time can be used to start a business / find a better job [I do both]
    * better rested people are more creative and innovative
    * better rested people have better health
    * companies can [and in finance DO] audit people when they are out of the office, and can gauge how much less porductive a unit is based on someone's absense.

    The standard in America is the 9-5 or rotational shift work w/ some vacation time so there hasn't been a NEED for government intervention, and it's highly unlikely that this will change. America works much more than it needs to and pays the price, but it's not the gulag that Europeans make it out to be. Europe is also in a period of stagnation considering their brilliant history. Something to consider: America takes care of global security, thus allowing Europe to subisidize its lifestyle with the money they save on defence. Again, the upsides are huge for America, but there is a tradeoff. America values wealth and security over leisure....that's just the way it is.

    Get busy living

  • In reply to Edmundo Braverman
    Schwarzmanegger's picture

    Edmundo Braverman:
    Schwarzmanegger:
    You = socialist.

    If it were efficient to give paid vacation, more employers would offer paid vacation so they can bring in the same quality people with lower overall compensation. But Americans prefer working hard and earning more money.

    Also, Germans are lazy. The French are jokes. Sure it may be great for the employees, but forcing employers to lose out on productivity like that kills incentive for entrepreneurship and effective management/leadership.

    Tell me if you feel the same way a couple years after you graduate high school.

    Oh good one, Edmundo thinks he's so clever with his clever little torts. Tell me if you feel the same way about America after you grow a pair of balls and your mental retardation goes away, deal?

  • In reply to Schwarzmanegger
    UFOinsider's picture

    Schwarzmanegger:
    Edmundo Braverman:
    Schwarzmanegger:
    You = socialist.

    If it were efficient to give paid vacation, more employers would offer paid vacation so they can bring in the same quality people with lower overall compensation. But Americans prefer working hard and earning more money.

    Also, Germans are lazy. The French are jokes. Sure it may be great for the employees, but forcing employers to lose out on productivity like that kills incentive for entrepreneurship and effective management/leadership.

    Tell me if you feel the same way a couple years after you graduate high school.

    Oh good one, Edmundo thinks he's so clever with his clever little torts. Tell me if you feel the same way about America after you grow a pair of balls and your mental retardation goes away, deal?


    ....I haven't met him personally, but given that I grew up with and live around a bunch of former Marines AND Wall Street guys, I'd put my money on his opinion over yours any day of the week: and bet 20 to 1 against you in a fight.

    Who the fuck are you??

    Get busy living

  • In reply to Edmundo Braverman
    Schwarzmanegger's picture

    Edmundo Braverman:
    @Veritas Having been in both situations I can say that I'd prefer a job I enjoyed to copious amounts of time off. That said, I don't think a month off every year is that out of line.

    Your comment about the dozen or so "mini-vacations" each day spent cruising the net or hitting Starbucks made me laugh until I considered how utterly sad that is.

    You know what's really sad? Kids working 12-16 hours a day to help pay for their families' rent and food under dangerous and disgusting conditions, which was extremely common in the industrial revolution. Compared to lazy ass countries such as all of Europe, sure working in the US is no walk in the park (even though the average employee only works like 40 hours a week, which is a fucking vacation to begin with IMO), but by no means are the labor conditions in the US "sad." You clearly haven't thought this through.

  • In reply to UFOinsider
    Schwarzmanegger's picture

    UFOinsider:
    Schwarzmanegger:
    Edmundo Braverman:
    Schwarzmanegger:
    You = socialist.

    If it were efficient to give paid vacation, more employers would offer paid vacation so they can bring in the same quality people with lower overall compensation. But Americans prefer working hard and earning more money.

    Also, Germans are lazy. The French are jokes. Sure it may be great for the employees, but forcing employers to lose out on productivity like that kills incentive for entrepreneurship and effective management/leadership.

    Tell me if you feel the same way a couple years after you graduate high school.

    Oh good one, Edmundo thinks he's so clever with his clever little torts. Tell me if you feel the same way about America after you grow a pair of balls and your mental retardation goes away, deal?


    ....I haven't met him personally, but given that I grew up with and live around a bunch of former Marines AND Wall Street guys, I'd put my money on his opinion over yours any day of the week: and bet 20 to 1 against you in a fight.

    Who the fuck are you??

    Oh shit, why didn't you tell me that you'd side with him and he could beat me in a fight? THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING!!!! His opinions are now completely valid and mine are completely invalid. Obviously this is how things work on the internet. Thanks for pointing it out bruh.

  • In reply to Schwarzmanegger
    UFOinsider's picture

    reply deleted

    GoodBread:
    Don't feed the troll guys.

    Get busy living

  • IlliniProgrammer's picture

    Without referencing other names, I support Eddie too. Just wanted to get that in there.

  • International Pymp's picture

    I get 4 weeks paid vacation. I got 3 weeks as an analyst and was 100% encouraged to take it all. Yes, I have to stay in contact and be on weekly meetings and rarely even work on something, but I'm basically fully off when I leave (typically I go skiing).

    = this is one of the good things about being an Ex-Pat

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