We hear all the time about people in France and Germany, or some other European country, who only have to work 35 hours per week. The story is always the same: They get roughly a million days vacation every year, great benefits, and email is blocked on weekends. As a result, everyone’s happier, and production is just as high (if not higher) than here in the US where our hours are listed as “infinity.”
Coming from an American ethos on labor, the European system is almost impossible to take seriously. That is, until one CEO put it to the test on American soil to see if fewer work hours equated to higher productivity.
Mark Douglas of SteelHouse (an advertising and marketing company) ran an experiment wherein he’d assure that all employees enjoyed a three-day weekend every single month of the year. Before we go on, that really only equates to an extra five days off per year since there are already seven three-day weekends peppered throughout the work year. Douglas told Business Insider, “you’re taking a bet that this will ultimately benefit everyone, including the company.” Douglas implemented “SteelHouse Days” on either a Monday or Friday during the months without three-day weekends to go along with a $2,000 vacation allowance for all the employees to use to go somewhere and unwind.
Well, it’s a year later and it’s paid off big for Douglas and SteelHouse. Productivity and general worker happiness are way up. But, there’s a crucial component to this test. The days off are days off for everyone. The whole company shuts down like it’s Christmas Day. That way, half the employees don’t have to be at work while the other half get a free day. Everyone’s on the same footing and able to completely walk away from the office. “When you make it so the whole team does it,” Douglas said, “it really does give the entire team a long weekend — a built-in, ‘enjoy-yourself’ time each month of the year.”
Douglas tells Business Insider that the give-and-take mentality of the monthly three-day weekends and vacation slush fund shows respect to the company’s employees who, in turn, respect the company more. Which isn’t really rocket science — people work harder for places they care about and benefit from.
Countries like Germany go a step further by implementing 28-hour work weeks in some sectors with four to five percent yearly raises (to beat inflation), will American companies keep up? Or will we lose more and more talented workers to the chance at a higher quality of living abroad?
(Via Business Insider)