We all know that we work too much in the United States.
The United States is the only industrialized nation in the world without a minimum annual leave for workers—a minimum number of paid vacation days in a year granted to employees.1.
The average American worker toiled for 1,791 hours in 2021.2 This was 428 hours more than the average worker in Denmark and 442 hours more than a worker in Germany. In 2021, we worked, on average, 184 more hours than a worker in Japan and 195 more hours than a worker in… Slovenia. I don’t know about you, but these numbers surprised me. I am not sure how many hours I was expecting someone in Slovenia to work, but I sure am jealous of their work-life balance over there. All I know is that a small part of each of us likely dies inside when we take stock of these comparisons.
There is a laundry list of problems with our work culture: lack of a national paid parental leave benefit, stigma around using vacation and sick days, the systematic undervaluing and under-compensating of professions like teaching, etc. It could be easy to become bitter and cynical and… stop there, but that is not what a reader of Psychology Today is about, right? What can we do?
Treat Your Weekend Like a Vacation
A group of researchers wanted to see if prompting employees on a Friday to “treat this weekend like a vacation” would allow them to enjoy their time off more and be more emotionally and mentally refreshed upon going back to work the following Monday compared to being prompted to “treat this weekend like a regular weekend.”3 They surveyed 441 full-time employees before and after the following weekend and found that workers who