Achieving a healthy work-life balance seems to be a constant struggle for most of us. In the U.S, we generally work very long hours, many of them in high-stress environments. Those of us who are lucky enough to get paid vacation time aren’t taking very much of it, and there are countless Americans who receive little to no paid vacation time through their employers, making it extremely hard to take time off due to the loss of income.
In many workplaces, even if paid vacation time is offered, people don’t take it because it’s either looked down upon or employees workloads are so heavy, they don’t want to get too far behind after they’re back from vacation.
When factoring in things like paid vacation time, average hours worked per week, maternity benefits, work flexibility, family-friendly work environments and boss/employee relationships, we found that the U.S. doesn't come close to the top 10 countries reported to have a healthy work-life balance. We’re not even in the top 20. According to The Atlantic, we sit at an underwhelming No. 23.
So, who’s at the top and why?
The 2015 OECD Better Life Index reported that all three Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Sweden and Norway) finished in the top 6 at No. 1, No. 5 and No. 6, respectively. Spain came in at No. 2, Netherlands at No. 3 and Belgium at No. 4.
Employees in these countries have shorter work hours and a lot more flexibility. MyDomain.com reports that Sweden tops the list with 30-hour workweeks, while American workers average 47 hours a week, according to CNN Money. Spain and the Netherlands, for example, work shorter hours per day, allowing for more leisure time. The No. 1 country, Denmark, offers its workers “Flexjobs” which offer several options: employees can work remotely, work at a different pace or work shorter hours. They also cater to older workers (source: OECD Better Life Index for 2015).
According to CNN, workers want more flexibility in their job. It is such a top priority (behind a competitive salary and health benefits) that many employees are willing to look for a new job or give up a promotion if it means more flexibility.
Personal time off and flexible work environments seem vital to maintaining both physical and emotional health. They offer the chance to unwind but also to rejuvenate. According to Inc.com, stress, exhaustion and burnout can easily occur when employees are forced to work long hours sustained for long periods of time and that productivity levels climb when employees are happy in the workplace.
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