Sometimes I write research papers for fun.
Americans are known to be workaholics. In fact this is so ingrained in us that we do not even notice that we do it. I discovered this last year while studying abroad. I would find myself utterly amazed at the slower pace of life in Europe. To my workaholic American mind it did not make any sense. Dinner would be a regular three hour event and I found myself wondering “Who has the time for this?” It was a far cry from my American twenty to thirty minute dinner sandwiched between soccer practices, homework and my other extracurricular activities.
However I think Europe has it right with this slower pace of life.
The truth is in the research. While comparing the rates at which Americans work I discovered a few things.
In 134 countries there are limits on the maximum amount of hours that can be worked in a week. In Great Britain the maximum amount of hours you can work in week is 48. In fact to work more than that you must sign an opt-out agreement. In America, the average work week is 46.7 hours. That is just the average however not the maximum. [i]
Furthermore our society is so work focused that coffee or rest breaks are not required. They may count as part of the work week if they do not go over thirty minutes. A thirty minute or more break is a typical lunch break and this is not time that an employee is compensated for.[ii]
On the other hand, Spain has a three hour midday break for lunch and a siesta. The typical work week in Spain is still forty hours however. In Spain, you cannot work more than 80 hours overtime in a single year without first signing an agreement.[iii]
Americans on the other hand often completely skip our paid vacations. A study done by Reuters showed that only about 43% of Americans use their vacation. In France however only 11% fail to use their vacation. [iv] This statistic, shows that America is a nation of workaholics in fact, we rate fifth in terms of workaholic countries.
I think the problem is that our culture has taught us that we all need to be workaholics. We need to work long hours. We need to brag about how late we stay at work or how many weekends we work. We need to put in ever longer hours just to keep our jobs.
Personally, I am fascinated by workaholic’s. In fact I am writing this between a 12 and 14 hour work day respectively. I might even be a workaholic, in fact my friends would definitely say that I am.
I think it fascinates me in part, because more hours at work does not mean better quality work. Yet we often work insanely long hours anyway. It also does not make you absolutely amazing at what you do. In fact, it can often do the opposite. It can leave us drained and depleted. It can also lead to more stress which just happens to be the cause of both physical and mental health problems.
Workaholics often have time for nothing but work which is not healthy in the long term. When researching whole hearted people Brene Brown discovered that those who lived their lives well goofed off.[v] She was puzzled by this since the people she was looking at were not slackers. Yet they made time for play. These are the people who were living life whole heartedly. The people who are living full, beautiful and fulfilling lives. They were successful, and yet they are not workaholics.
I think we need as a culture change our focus. We need to work hard but we also need to play hard. We need both. People who do that will be happier and more successful in the long run. We will also have less stress which is something we all need less of besides less stress makes you healthier.[vi]
When you slow down you will discover something incredible. You will discover the moments. You will cherish the moments and you will fall in love with life all over again.