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.?