What U.S. Employers Can Learn About Work-Life Balance from These 6 Countries
As much as health is regarded as the backbone of wealth, so also is family and friends, regarded as the support system of every human when all other supporting media seems to have failed. Balancing the level of attention you give to your career and working with the one you give to your health and people around you will not only bring the best out of you but will give you a good landing spot at the end of everything.
The work and career system are designed to choke out our time for any and every other thing. It’s been designed to draw our attention ultimately to just work responsibilities and deliverables. Underperformance or failure to achieve the needful at work attracts several penalties like pay deduction, termination of appointment, suspension, legal charges, etc. Thus, most people devote a larger percentage of their lives to the success of their career to the detriment of other core areas of their lives.
Some people look forward to retirement as the perfect solution to their work-life balance. They have been blindfolded with the thoughts that if they devote their entire time and energy to their career and work, they will be able to acquire a lot of resources to cater for them after retirement. They will also have enough time to stay with their families and friends and even do other things. This school of thought is not always correct. That’s not the result of the imbalance in most cases. Many people tend to develop certain illnesses or die before or shortly after retirement due to accumulated stress, worries, and other possible ways.
Keeping alive a balanced work-life lifestyle is a very big mountain to climb for several career-minded individuals. Men who fall into this category will not spare time to learn about activities occurring in the family, lessen time with their children, be prone to losing formidable friendships, exposure to vices, etc. In the event that this imbalance prevails among women, the ripple effects are bound to be felt in the family and society.
Most sectors are contributing to the gap that is disallowing balance between work and professionals’ life. The civil service, tech sector, oil and gas, education, entertainment, sport, finance industry, etc all have their ways of choking people out of the time they give to other areas of their lives in pursuit of growth and success in the industry alongside the safety of their jobs. Although the career system in these industries has supported this imbalance, some countries have managed to create an enabling atmosphere for their workers. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reckons that some nations which belong to the organization have been classed based on the country’s allotted time for employee timeout, extended unpaid overtime, the gender gap as well as its business hours and finally, the happiness that comes with such hours.
Their findings disclose that the United States fell on the low index on the ranking of the balance between work and life. The country’s system is known to support the work-focused lifestyle. In the US, employers are known to demand more that their employees put in more hours based on growth and success. The OCED’s findings reveal that the country ranks number ten among nations with a substantial number of hours spent working. Some companies in the US are changing this narrative by learning from the system practiced in some European countries. However, the goal is not for “some” employers to adapt to a balanced work-life system. The goal is for “all” employers to provide a balanced work-life atmosphere for their workers.
In this article, we will be looking at top indexed countries with a balanced work-life system. US employers and those in other low-indexed countries will learn a lot from this guide. Employers will not just be able to activate this plan for their workforce in the US after reading through this article, they will also be able to initiate it for their employees working in Poland, Russia, Brazil, and other countries of the world.
The Western European country that holds a total GDP of $1.055 trillion as well as a per capita of $60,461 in 2021 is the first country on our list. The OECD ranked the Netherlands which is known for its high level of economic freedom as the country with the best work-life balance system. The country had a score point of 9.3 of 10 in the OECD ranking. In 2016, the country was ranked the second top country with global trade enabling system. One of the factors that support this latter ranking is the high work-life balance in the Netherlands.
Furthermore, one of the greatest influencers of the Netherlands’ high OECD indexing is the country’s low working hours system for its employees. Statistics show that only 0.4% of the Dutch employees spend long hours working, and this utterly beat the OECD average of 11%. A large number of fully employed individuals in Holland pay more attention (committing an average of 16 hours per day) to caring for themselves, improving their health, participating in leisure, and having fun times than the OECD provided an average of 15 hours that should have been dedicated to working. The country’s labor law further contributes to this balance as it allows none of the country’s employees to work beyond the 60 hours per week threshold.
Aside from the available system, discipline and diligence of the employees also contribute to the high productivity level of the country. The workers in Holland are known for their work punctuality, diligence to their work, avoidance of distractions, the tight boundary between work and other things, etc. This attitude allows the employees to do more within a short time, work together as a team, deliver results on or before deadlines, improve efficiency and growth, etc. The interesting thing about this is that workers won’t be tied down to work once then assignments are over. They tend to devote the remaining time of the day to a healthy lifestyle and efficient use of leisure.
Finally, the bridging of the gender gap is also an enabling medium in Holland. This is because the country’s female employment rate is staged at 69.9% which is more than the OECD average of 57.5%. This growth, however, doesn’t mean that women are subjected to more work than men. The growth is just indicating the enabling system for women to work in the Netherlands. Women in Holland are known to enjoy extra two hours at home than their men counterparts.
This is another European country with an excellent system that balances work/life. In Denmark, employed individuals are known to have about 15.9 hours of the total 24 to relax and take care of themselves while just 2.3% of the working population actually work for long hours. The Danish labor law also provides the smallest official working hours per week (37 hours per week) of the OECD member states, and the average working hours of the workers are 29 hours per week. This gives the Danish population a perfect system to exercise the work-life balance. A typical illustration can be seen as the country grants nursing mothers the potential of 52 weeks of paid maternity leave.
Working hours per day in most Danish companies end by 4 pm while you will almost not see anybody other than the security personnel after 5 pm in most Danish organizations. The country also beat the US government in terms of the available vacation period for each of its workers. In Denmark, all employees are entitled to government-ordered five weeks leave which is almost twice the time provided for workers in the United States. Furthermore, the Danish system also gives all workers the exclusive time off benefit which usually comes up in July.
Other government policies like the high extensive financial support and provision to families with young children. They have also been able to bridge the gender gap in employment and employees’ wages to a great extent. All these have given workers in Denmark to enjoy their work and have more time for their lives.
Work-life balance is a major concern for working parents anywhere. However, the accomodating work system in Norway has removed this burden from parents. The Scandinavia country is known to have one of the best parental benefits and compensation in the world. The Norwegian government provides its workers with excellent parental leave policies which provide husband and wife with time off for their family. The country also provides up to 49-week paid maternal leave or 59-week eighty percent paid maternal leave to nursing mothers. Aside from the parental perks, the country also offers its workers luxurious paid vacations e.g 21 days working leave, among others. The system is so conducive for workers especially those in the female gender because of the bridge in the gender pay gap. This grants the country its top status in the overall equality ranking. With all these perks, parents in Norway have more time with their family, friends, and even more time to improve their lives.
With regards to working hours, full-time employees spend about sixty-five percent of their day on leisure and personal care. Norwegian workers are known to leave work early on Fridays to give the opportunity of going out on personal trips. Employees above 62 years old can request a reduction in working hours for their wellness.
This is another important country with an exceptional work-life balance. It is just 1% of the Swedish workers that participate in long working hours, one of the lowest in the OECD ranking. The majority of the employees also spend up to 63% of their day with their families, on health and well-being, fun, personal growth, and development, etc. The country also provides an excellent and easy-to-use parental leave request system which provides parents with up to 69 weeks of parental leave. Workers in Sweden enjoy more time off work with the availability of 6 weeks vacation period and flexible working hours with energized allowances. Women are also provided with healthier treatment at the workplace and the available designated working hours and conditions. Sweden has also been able to bridge the gender employment and wages gap as female workers in Sweden get up to a minimum of 82% pay of what their male counterparts are getting.
Having established that, long working hours adversely affect work-life balance, getting out this negative productivity factor is something the Swiss government and companies are well conversant with. Only 0.4% of the workforce in Switzerland is known to work for very long hours. Those working in Switzerland can accumulate a larger percentage of their day to personal wellness and relaxation. Swiss employees work for an average of 33 hours per week as of 2019. Productivity is very high in Switzerland and this is a function of the perks available to the employees and also the luxurious free time to stay fit and healthy.
Time efficiency and strict compliance to work schedules are one of the major attributes of the Swiss workforce. They take time off for lunch at the cafeteria, they excel at delivering results before deadlines, they leverage work options that avail them the opportunity to work either five, four, or three days of the week. The employees’ attitude and the flexible work system are among the major contributors to the outstanding work-life balance in Switzerland.
Russia is another important country where United States employers can learn work-life balance from. Russia with a total GDP of $4.19 trillion and a per capita of $28,557 is the highest-ranked country according to OECD with employees working very long hours. In Russia, only 0.1% of the Russian employment-population works for very long hours. Employees dedicate the majority of their time (about 15 hours) and energy per day to personal care and leisure according to OECD analysis. Over 70% of the Russian population between the age of 16-64 years are employed which make Russia a good employment site. The Better Life Index shows that Russia has made significant progress in improving the quality of life of its employees.
Tips on how companies can balance the work and life aspects of their employees
Implementation of signing off after work policy
In a bid to encourage and support a balanced work-life environment, employers in the United States and other parts of the world should enforce a system that allows and encourage all employees to disconnect from any work responsibilities or connections immediately after the official working hours. Working outside working hours to improve productivity is a workplace myth that eventually leads to the company’s downtime in long run.
Enforcement of compulsory adherence to vacations and leaves
A study in 2019 showed that nearly half of the American employment-population failed to use their official paid leave options. Some employees see no reason why they should go on either paid or unpaid vacations. Some have disconnected from people such that they have no place to go, some are obsessed with the works they do, some are not even used to going on leaves and vacation. All these reasons among others have contributed to the poor adherence of employees in the United States to exercise their labor rights. Companies, however, have the responsibility of ensuring that their workforce uses the available vacation opportunity. The human resources team should create a system that encourages and ensures all employees go on paid vacation for rest, personal wellbeing management, reconnection with friends and family, etc.
Educate your employees
During talent onboarding and other growth and development programs for employees, companies must ensure that they educate their staff on the benefits and importance of work-life balance. Employees should be shown how this will improve their efficiency, performance, reliability, trust, etc. Training such as this should be regularly organized to ensure that workers are consistently informed.
Companies that will have excellent work-life balance are those that have embraced the culture of flexibility. Employees should be able to enjoy flexible working hours and days, a smart atmosphere for work, etc. Companies should place more emphasis on the stages and progress involved in delivering results rather than the time used.
Regular breaks and time off
Employers should provide their workers with an extensive break period where they can easily relax, eat, and interact with their colleagues. Time off and holiday should be made compulsory for all workers. The company should create a system that will allow the employees to take time off and also participate in various holidays that are available to them. This will not only improve their work-life balance, but it will also give the workers a sense of belonging and trust in the employer.
Encourage remote working
Remote working is one of the best concepts that is promoting work-life balance in the world today. With remote works, employees can work at their convenience, desired environment, available time, desired conditions, etc.
Balanced work-life with WeHireGlobally
A balanced work-life atmosphere promotes productivity and connectivity at home and work. Achieving this balance is a big possibility in the United States as US companies and employers take their time to learn from their European counterparts. Wehireglobally assists companies in expanding to other countries with 100% compliance and HR risk mitigation. As Wehireglobally manages your employees’ payroll and ensures the excellent disbursement and distribution of benefits and compensation to the employees, you can focus on improving the morale of the employees, supervising project progress, managing their working hours, and responsibilities. With our top-notch professionals, we help companies to attract and retain talents from +180 countries globally.
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