WHAT IS WORK LIFE BALANCE?
There is no one-size fits all definition of Work-Life Balance, and the important aspects of this buzzword will vary between individuals and their day to day life. However, there are two core concepts that must be applied and valued when discussing Work-Life Balance: Achievement and Enjoyment.
In the same way that a coin can’t have one side, you cannot get the full value from life without both Achievement and Enjoyment. If we can apply these core concepts to the fundamental aspects of life: Work, Family, Friends and Self, then we as individuals will be able to pursue a happier and more balanced life.
Employers and corporations that assist and support their employees in achieving the right work-life balance have not only seen a decrease in mental health-related time-off, but also an increase in overall productivity – everyone wins!
HOW DO WE MEASURE WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
The Work-Life Balance of countries is monitored and measured by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD for short. The goal of the organisation is to promote policies that improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.
With 34 countries as members and 70 non-members all working together, the OECD gathers information such as the average hours worked per day, average hours of leisure per day, Percentage of employees working over 50 hours per week and finally the total bank holidays, from a number of official sources such as the United Nations and National Statistics Offices.
Taking these factors into consideration, along with the overall happiness of the country based on the annual world happiness report, RedCat Digital will look at some of the best countries for Work-Life Balance and some of the worst.
Work-Life Balance: 1st Place | 9.3/10
World Happiness Report 2018: 6th
In 1st place in the Work-Life balance report, the Netherlands comes out on top, beating Denmark off the top spot. Devoting an average of 16 hours per day to leisurely pursuits along with life’s necessities: sleep and eating, Dutch employees have the lowest rate of employees who regularly work very long hours (over 50 hours per week), coming in at just below 0.5%.
One downfall of working life in the Netherlands is that workers only receive nine bank holidays per year, however when you add the 20 days annual leave on top and their generous parental leave policies, it’s easy to forget the one downfall. Besides – who needs holidays when you have the shortest work week of all countries surveyed, averaging at 30.3 hours per week.
One reason for the low number of hours in the Netherlands is because many Dutch people decide to work part-time jobs. There is even a law guaranteeing that workers have the right to request a job that has more relaxed hours.
Work-Life Balance: 2nd Place 9.0/10 Work-Life Balance
World Happiness Report: 3rd
Denmark is consistently at the top of the global leader boards when it comes to Work-Life balance and Happiness. This in large, is due to the lengths the government goes to; taking care of all the necessities of life; such as Healthcare, Education and pension plans: leaving the average citizen to pursue a career that they’re passionate about. Denmark was also voted the best country in the world for raising children due to the extensive parental leave provided. Both mothers and fathers are entitled to 23 weeks leave, additionally, mothers get an extra four weeks of leave before their expected due date.
People in Denmark devote 68% of their day, or 16.3 hours, to personal care and leisure – which is well above the OECD average. The average employee will work 6.6 hours per day and only 2% of the population will work over 50 hours per week – again, well below the OECD average of 13%.
Work-Life Balance: 8.9/10
World Happiness Report: 23rd
France performs well in many measures of the Better Life Index, excelling in Work-Life Balance. However, their life satisfaction brings down their rankings in the World Happiness Report, falling behind other European countries like the UK.
In terms of employment, about 65% of people aged 15 to 64 in France have paid work, which just falls short of the OECD average of 67%. The amount of employees who work very long hours, is successfully below the OECD average, coming in at just under 8%. There are also French labour laws in certain parts of the region that states bakeries and shops must close for at least one day a week (a day of rest), and if they don’t they will be penalised, which one baker found out after he was fined 3000 euros.
Work-Life Balance: 6.2/10
World Happiness Report: 19th
Reviewing the national statistics over the years, the UK performs well in most measures of the Better Life index and proven by statistics, there has been a rise in overall happiness for citizens of Britain. However, it is still not enough to move up in the UN World Happiness rankings as the UK comes in 19th for the second year in a row. This stagnate position is due to the lowly position when it comes to Work-Life Balance.
The working week is officially limited to 48 hours however the UK is flexible in this limit, with the average resident working 37 hours per week, and 13% of employees working very long hours. The UK is also a top contender for the most amount of annual leave given, offering 28 days a year on average.
Although 73% of employees believe they have a good work-life balance, more than half of all workers believe that their working lives impact simple tasks such as booking a doctors appointment. Luckily, the UK is becoming increasingly active in improving the work-life balance of its citizens, with companies now offering a flexible working scheme.
Work-Life Balance: 5.8/10
World Happiness Report: 18th
While the U.S. ranks high in housing, income and wealth, it ranks extremely low on work-life balance. Their overall quality of life has also seen a drop, slipping from 13th place to 18th, since 2016.
The OECD states that Americans work an average of 1,790 hours per year. Although this does not stray far from European counterparts, Americans receive less annual leave at just 15 days off per year and the law does not state that you’re guaranteed paid time off.
However, the US is beginning to follow in European footsteps, with a proposed law allowing New Yorkers the right to disconnect after working hours – meaning they won’t have to answer calls or emails past their designated working hours.
Work-Life Balance: 4.8/10
World Happiness Report: 54th
Japan is now the most infamous when it comes to work culture. Their work culture is so intense, that the word “Karoshi” was invented in the 1970’s, which translates to “death from overwork”. The term was coined after employees began committing suicide or suffering from heart failure and stroke because of the long working hours.
20% of employees in Japan work an average of 50 hours or longer per week, while another 20% stated they worked at least 80 hours of overtime a month and only 3.7% of employees actually left work early. It’s even considered a good thing to fall asleep at your desk. The phenomenon of “inemuri,” shows the level of “dedication” you have for your job.
However, this extreme work ethic is usually only applied to males as women are expected to look after all domestic issues. But the government are looking towards the future and have now implemented new laws which cap the number of overtime hours to 100 a month. They have also put a new requirement in place, urging employees to take at least 5 days every 6 months in order to spend time with their families.
Work-Life Balance: Last Place | 0/10
World Happiness Report: 74th
While Turkey has made substantial progress in improving the quality of life of its citizens over the last two decades, they still scored a dramatic ‘0’ in terms of Work-Life Balance. This likelihood of this score can be broken down into three main factors.
Firstly, 33% of employees work very long hours (over 50 hours per week), which is well above the OECD average of 13%. Secondly, due to their long working hours, the average employee is left with just 12.6 hours per day to balance life’s necessities such as eating and sleeping, alongside seeing family and friends and general enjoyment.
However, this fierce commitment to their jobs is likely due to a lack of employment opportunities. According to the OECD, the employment rate in Turkey is the lowest among members of the organisation, while job strain and labour market insecurity are among the highest.