An Israeli client of mine learned the hard way the importance of work-life balance when doing business in Germany. He dared to call his German associate on the weekend when the latter was vacationing with his family at their lake side cottage. The German was less than pleased about being disturbed, and this lack of understanding almost cost my client a lucrative business deal.
We all want to take vacations, we understand that vacations are important to refueling our body, mind and soul. That said, Work-Life balance has become an issue for people all over the world. With so many of us being virtually glued to our laptops and smartphones, work is never more than a click away. This means the lines between work life and personal life become almost non-existent.
What is Work-Life Balance?
It is the ability to enjoy each of four aspects of a person’s life: work, family, friends and self. Translated, it means that the demands of an employer shouldn’t overwhelm a person’s ability to enjoy a satisfying personal life. Work-Life balance is often determined by culture and is an important factor when working globally in understanding how other perceive work and leisure time.
OECD defines 50 hours a week or more as “long” working hours. As such, European countries excel in keeping a work-life balance. France has 25 federally mandated vacation days. Both in Germany and France employees take almost all their time off.
In the United States there is no balance, as employees use only 73% of their available time off which amounts to an average of 13 annual leave days.
Israel has 24 annual vacation days, which is one of the lowest numbers of annual vacation days compared to other OECD countries except that of the United States and Canada.
That said, in the U.S. businesses are looking for creative ways to help employees achieve work-life balance. For instance, CEO of Virgin, Richard Branson, announced that Virgin staff can take as much holiday time as they want–so long they get their work done. Netflix is struggling to implement a new way of tracking employees work-life balance as so many of its employees work virtually and therefore are not always able to track their total time at work.
In Japan, there’s even a word to describe “death by overwork”: Karoshi. This acknowledgement of the dangers of overwork have led some companies, including Toyota and Mitsubishi, to institute inter-company policies like limiting the amount of overtime permitted and allowing workers to leave work up to 3 hours early to care for kids or elderly relatives.
On the positive side, if you were to work in China, you would receive 5 annual leave days, and the work week averages somewhere between 40-60 hours, whereby in many industries, most people work close to 60-hour work-week.
Below is a list of the 10-best and worst countries, according to OCED, in terms of work-life balance.
Best work-life countries:
The country ranked as the best for work-life balance, only 0.5 percent of employees work long hours, compared with the overall average of 13 percent. The country also has a high childhood satisfaction rate of 93 percent.
Danes have the shortest work week (an average of 39.7 hours) of countries surveyed. Furthermore, the state provides childcare for children up to the age of six, and parents are entitled to 52 weeks of paid maternity leave.
The French enjoy five weeks minimum of paid vacation time. The law establishes the workweek as 35 hours, although overtime does happen.
Traditionally, employees enjoyed a siesta around lunchtime, breaking up the workday. Still, the government is looking for ways to improve work-life balance with measures such as increasing the number of nursery schools.
Belgian law stipulates a maximum 8-hour workday and 40-hour work week. The country has also seen a rise in telecommuting and flexible work options.
Norway ranks number one for overall equality. The country also prioritizes education, asking students to choose their career direction early on. Additionally, Norwegians tend to have high job security.
Employees enjoy six weeks of vacation time plus holidays and sick days. They also enjoy flexible work hours and a health and energy allowance. Parents are entitled to 480 days of leave.
Germany has perhaps the most generous parental leave policy in the world — up to three years per child. Germans also tend to work overall shorter hours but produce more in that time.
Very few citizens of the Russian Federation work long hours at a rate of 0.2 percent.
Irish dedicate an average of 15.3 hours per day engaging in non-work, personal activities. These including relaxation, sleeping, eating, and others.
Worst Work-Life Balance countries:
Turkey is by far the country with the highest proportion of people working very long hours, with 34%. Furthermore, while Turkey does offer paid maternity leave, it only does so for 16 weeks total for one child or 18 weeks for multiple pregnancies.
Sixty-one percent of people between the ages of 15 and 64 have a paid job, lower than the overall average. Nearly 30 percent work very long hours.
In Israel, the work week is defined as 43 hours but at least 15 percent of employees work overtime. The average household disposable income per capita is also lower than the overall average.
While Korea recently cut its maximum working hours per week from 68 to 52, this is still substantially higher than many other countries. Still, the change may help Koreans see a better work-life balance.
Japan has also made strides to improve work-life balance by limiting overtime to 100 hours per month and 720 hours per year.
Iceland is an expensive country, and many employees work long hours to make ends meet. However, Icelanders are not supposed to work more than 48 per week.
According to a Targus “NoMoreExcuses” Survey, 30 percent of South African respondents feel their employers don’t value work-life balance. The survey also found that 63 percent of employers don’t permit remote working.
Census data from 2016 found that 43 percent of Australians work more than 43 hours per week. An Austrian Bureau of Statistics survey from 2017 found that 35% of Australian men and 42 percent of Australian women felt significant stress or lack of time.
The U.S. is the only OECD without a paid parental leave policy. It also has no federally mandated sick leave policy or maximum number of hours employees may work per week.
A 2016 Census survey found that most New Zealanders worked between 40 and 49 hours per week. The OECD also reported that 13 percent work very long hours.
In view of the above, and in order to improve the statistics for Israel, I will be on vacation until the end of August.
Published in Status