What “Work-Life Balance” Looks Like In 5 Very Different Countries

What “Work-Life Balance” Looks Like In 5 Very Different Countries

Dolly Parton once said, “Don’t get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.” Today, these words feel especially true, considering how difficult it is to maintain a healthy work-life balance when we can barely log off. Whatever work-life balance may look like to you, establishing better boundaries within our jobs is something many of us (read: all) could benefit from.

In fact, a 2015 vacation study showed that US workers were only taking 73 percent of their allotted annual time off, versus European workers who reportedly took all of their vacation time. Even more staggering? Americans left 662 million vacation days unused in 2016. Ugh.

While there are many theories to suggest why Americans love the grind so much, it’s hard to deny that the US is lagging behind when it comes to striking that perfect balance between work-hard and play-hard. Is it the only country with this imbalance? To explore if (and how) others nations are getting it right, we looked at work satisfaction across the globe.

Let this data below inspire you to (finally) take that guilt-free vacation, fully sign off from email at the end of day, and set the boundaries necessary to unlock the happy medium you deserve.

France: The hero of work-life balance

Prepare to feel a little jealous. Full-time workers in France are required by law to receive five weeks of vacation, in addition to about a dozen national holidays. They also can’t work more than 35-hour weeks. If that’s not enough to leave you green with envy, just last year France passed yet another progressive work law that prohibits email communication after work hours and on weekends. What we’re really getting at here is, maybe it’s time for a sabbatical abroad. Allons-y!

Japan: All work, no play

Twenty four percent of Japanese workers polled for the 2017 Hays Asia Salary Guide reported being “dissatisfied” or “very dissatisfied” with their work-life balance. According to the survey, Japan fell behind China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore. Long working hours were the main culprit, along with a severe labor shortage.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, reported that 22 percent of Japanese workers clocked in more than 50 hours of work a week. For comparison, only 11.4 percent of American workers are logging the same.

The Netherlands: (Almost) the happiest place on earth

For proof that the Dutch are committed to fostering a strong work-life balance, consider the stat that only .5 percent of the population works 50 hours a week or more, according to the OECD‘s most recent report. That’s the lowest of any of the 38 countries in the organization.

In what shouldn’t come as a surprise, the Dutch ranked their general satisfaction with life a 7.4 out of 10, much higher than the OECD average. These stats together hint that there’s a link between overall happiness and work-life balance.

Mexico: Our overworked neighbor

Lack of leisure time is the main reason Mexico ranks the lowest among Latin American countries when it comes to work-life balance. An astounding 30 percent of workers have 50-hour+ weeks, with approximately 12 hours a day left for sleeping, eating, and recreation. This is partly due to long commute times, as Mexico ranks fourth in longest commute to and from work among the OECD countries.

In Mexico City it can take up to three hours to get to work (making LA traffic jams insignificant by comparison). It also turns out many jobs stipulate a two hour lunch break, which keeps workers at the office longer.

Sweden: Work perks for days

Not to depress you, but Sweden offers approximately 16 months of paid leave to be split between parents. That’s 480 days families can take up until the child is eight years old. And turns out work perks like that do wonders for overall satisfaction.

And for Scandinavians, it’s all about lagom, which means just the right amount. Given that Sweden ranks in the top 10 among OECD countries for work-life balance, it seems Swedes have taken that to heart.