Do American Employees Work Too Much?

It is not uncommon to hear workers voice sentiments about the amount they work. America ranks 28 out of 36 nations in terms of work-life balance.Whether in seriousness or jest, however, new reports indicate that American employees aren’t exaggerating when it comes to estimating how much time they spend on the clock. To lessen the potential strain that long hours can have on workers, companies may help incorporate certain measures into staff training and development to promote healthy work-life balance.

Weekly Hours, Vacation Contribute to Workload

Compared to people in countries around the world, US employees spend the same amount of time taking care of domestic or family needs as their peers worldwide. When it comes to the average workweek and allowed vacation days, however, Americans may be at a disadvantage compared to members of the global workforce. The 2013 Better Life Index, conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, suggests that US employees not only put in some of the longest workweeks worldwide, but also enjoy fewer vacation days and free time.

According to the study, America ranked 28 out of 36 nations in terms of work-life balance. Almost every European country scored better than the United States, with Denmark taking the top spot. The data also suggested that more than 10 percent of Americans work “very long hours”—or more than 50 hours per week. In addition, women in the United States reported spending an average of 4.3 hours each day on household chores, such as cleaning, cooking, and taking care of family members. Men, on the other hand, estimated spending approximately 2.5 hours on similar tasks per day.

The United States was also compared to the 36 other countries in terms of benefits, such as maternity leave. Of the nations involved in the study, America was the only entity not to provide a paid leave policy for parents after the birth of a child, and even unpaid time off was shorter than in most other countries. For instance, in Denmark, maternity leave allowances for both parents are as long as a year, and the time is paid. According to the OECD, this discrepancy significantly contributed to America’s low work-life balance ranking.

Satisfaction and Work-Life Balance

Despite the amount of hours worked, it would appear that American are not altogether discouraged. In fact, in terms of “life satisfaction,” people living and working in the United States suggested average contentment scoring at 7 out of 10. The average ranking across all nations was 6.6.

Although companies may not have ultimate control over the amount of time their workers spend in the office, there are certain measures they can enact to help them regain some sort of balance. Employee training programs should focus on organization and efficiency methods, so that workers have less to do outside of regular hours, and companies can help prevent burnout. It may be useful for management to review vacation policy and time off as well. Although it might seem counterintuitive, employees who have a bit of extra time off can be more dedicated when they are in the office because they feel appreciated and like that their contribution is valuable to the company.

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