If you are familiar with American working practices, it should be no surprise that the United States is a nation of workaholics. According to OECD statistics, the average American employee spends 1,767 hours per year at work, making it the most overworked developed nation globally.
Studies show that long work hours increase the risk of sustaining stress-borne illnesses, such as strokes or coronary heart diseases. Individuals who work over 55 hours per week are 30% more likely to suffer from stress-related health complications than people who work fewer hours. This statistic is something to keep in mind when you search for your next job.
Other developed nations have adopted measures and habits in order to improve work-life balance, reduce overworking, and increase employees’ wellbeing and engagement. Here are the world’s most fascinating practices that American people should start adopting, and you can also see 5 Habits to Keep You More Productive at Work.
France: The Right to Disconnect
In the United States, it is customary for employers to keep their email inboxes open, including outside of work hours. According to a 2017 Future of Work survey, 59% of Americans receive emails from their coworkers and superiors after standard closing hours (9 PM), and 61% admit to checking their inbox even during vacations.
Health experts have described this phenomenon as an “always-on culture,” associating it with the rise of a new health condition called telepressure. Telepressure is a fixation on constantly checking and responding to work communication.
Telepressure is a significant driver of work-life imbalances and is linked to numerous work-related health issues. These include increased stress levels, lower worker engagement rates, lower worker happiness, decreased focus, and decreased sleep quality.
Employees who constantly check their digital devices and respond to work-related messages are more likely to experience burnout. Symptoms of burnout include negative feelings toward your job, feelings of exhaustion, and a sense of mental distance from your work.
In 2016, France passed a unique labor law to combat telepressure by codifying a “right to disconnect.” Under this world-first law, workers have the right not to be online on work-related electronic devices (computers, smartphones) and related applications (e-mail, instant messaging, social media) outside of established business hours.
This law allows workers not to respond to work emails and texts outside of working hours, including during breaks, paid time off, or commute time.
European Union: Factoring Commuting into Work Hours
According to a 2021 report by the U.S. Census Bureau, the nationwide average commute time is 27.6 minutes for a one-way trip, totaling 55.2 minutes round-trip during the workday.
However, workers in major U.S. metropolitan areas experience higher than average commute times. According to data compiled by LendingTree, these are the average one-way commute times and annual costs of commuting in some of the largest U.S. cities:
- New York City: 41.8 minutes, $9,581
- Chicago: 34.9 minutes, $7,840
- San Francisco: 33.8 minutes, $11,719
- Los Angeles: 31.8 minutes, $6,108
- Baltimore: 31.6 minutes, $6,805
The commuting situation in most European Union countries is similar. For instance, Germany’s average round-trip commute time is 42 minutes, and most German metropolitan areas reach even higher numbers. According to data compiled by Moovit, the average commute in Berlin is 50 minutes, and 58 minutes in Hamburg.
Traditionally, time spent commuting is unpaid. However, following the 2011 Tyco scandal, the European Union Court of Justice issued a ruling in 2016 that changed the legal status of commuting for specific worker categories.
The ECJ ruled that for people without a habitual place of work (e.g., working from home, transportation, delivery), all travel time during working hours, including commute time, counts as working time and must be paid by the employer.
If a similar law or measure passed at the federal level in the United States, workers earning the federal minimum wage and working the standard 8 hours a day would earn an additional $33.35 per week and close to $1,700 a year.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of an office worker in the United States is $20.38. Paid commute time would therefore represent an extra $93.75 per week and nearly $4,900 per year, offering significant long-term financial benefits.
Japan: Napping On the Job
In most countries, the concept of sleeping on the job conjures the image of a lazy or otherwise undisciplined worker. Although falling asleep at work is usually grounds for disciplinary action or even immediate termination (most companies consider it gross misconduct), it is more common than you might think.
A study conducted by Amerisleep revealed that a significant percentage of workers in the United States across all sectors admit to napping on the job, even if explicitly prohibited. The top three industries affected by this phenomenon are technology (70%), construction (68.2%), and government (63.5%).
In Japan, not only is this phenomenon widespread, but there is a name for it in the Japanese language: inemuri. This word translates to “sleeping on duty.”
According to Dr. Brigitte Steger, a professor of Japanese Studies, the Japanese consider it socially acceptable to momentarily doze off at work.
Inemuri is generally perceived as a sign of dedication to your work, somewhat equivalent to skipping lunch or having a full email inbox. Not only do employers in Japan not punish those who practice inemuri, but it may even be expected of employees in specific sectors, such as white-collar jobs.
Inemuri has existed for over 1,000 years in Japan and is considered one of the symptoms of a famously hardworking nation. In Japan, the average adult sleeps only 6.5 hours per night.
Napping has proven health benefits. Even a short nap (15 to 30 minutes) increases cognitive functions and offsets some of the sleep deprivation effects. It generally increases vigilance, attention, and reaction times.
Finland: Business Meetings in Saunas
Using the sauna regularly is an ancient and highly-regarded tradition in Finland. The sauna is such an integral part of every Finn’s life that the country has a veritable sauna culture, as common as eating and sleeping. Sauna culture even entered the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2020.
Finnish people typically visit the sauna once a week, most often on Saturday. It’s also customary to go during the Midsummer holiday, on Christmas, and for special occasions. There even used to be an annual sauna sitting world cup, the World Sauna Championships.
Not only is the sauna the traditional Finnish way to relax and unwind after a long week, but it also has numerous proven health benefits. From skin rejuvenation to improved metabolism, there are plenty of wellness perks to spending time in the sauna.
However, you may be surprised to know that it is also an integral element of doing business in Finland. The sauna meeting is a uniquely Finnish concept, typically booked yearly by a Finnish company or integrated into a business trip.
During a sauna meeting, all participants are expected to strip and enjoy the sauna together, no matter their position or responsibilities within their respective organizations. Although nudity may seem shocking to outsiders, Finnish people observe a strict etiquette for the sake of mutual respect.
If you’re seeking a job in Finland through an online platform like JobsFuel, knowing about the local customs and traditions is critical for success. Some Finnish companies may even offer job interviews in a sauna. Jobsfuel.com offers plenty of helpful resources to job seekers, including information about preparing to answer common interview questions, revamping your resume, and writing a professional cover letter.
Besides the health benefits, the sauna meeting is about trust building and temporarily shedding hierarchy. While discussing business matters during a sauna meeting often occurs, it is mainly intended for relaxation. During a sauna meeting, everyone is encouraged to socialize and speak more freely, which benefits the relationships in the workplace.
The Bottom Line
Through culture, tradition, or legislation, other countries have adopted numerous habits and measures to reduce work stress. These practices help employees maintain a healthier work-life balance and should be incorporated into American workplaces.
You may also like: 5 Habits to Keep You More Productive at Work
Image source: Unsplash.com