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What’s So Wrong With European Work Culture, Anyway?

There's an unfortunate stereotype about Europe that often rears its head when politicians are talking about the U.S. economy and work culture. Comparisons with countries like France and Italy can characterize these European states as lazy, unmotivated, and dangerous for free market growth.

There’s an unfortunate stereotype about Europe that often rears its head when politicians are talking about the U.S. economy and work culture. Comparisons with countries like France and Italy can characterize these European states as lazy, unmotivated, and dangerous for free market growth.

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(Photo Credit: Moyan Brenn/Flickr)

The implication here is that the U.S. economy thrives because we work longer, have less of a social safety net, and don’t offer employees key benefits like mandatory maternity leave. Here’s why that’s a myth that needs to end.

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Working Longer Isn’t Always Better

Be honest: how long ago was your last true 40-hour workweek? These days, a 9-to-5 isn’t the standard, but that doesn’t necessarily mean employers are getting more bang for their buck. Studies suggest that working longer hours doesn’t actually make us more productive, and can often mean we are less effective at our jobs.

By making sure we leave the office on time every night, we can optimize the hours that are spent at work and enjoy our social lives, too. A healthy and balanced employee is much more valuable than an overworked, exhausted one.

Parental Leave Is Worth Providing

The U.S. is the only industrialized nation without guaranteed paid maternity leave. While this isn’t good for families, it also isn’t beneficial for the companies themselves. Losing qualified, passionate employees because there’s little financial help for them as they start their families means that businesses waste time and resources filling those positions and training less experienced replacements.

It’s time for more companies – and politicians – to stand up for what’s right. Businesses like Netflix, Google, and Facebook, are paving the way with improved parental leave policies, but this isn’t something that should be limited to the tech industry.

Vacation Days Are Offered For a Reason

Four in 10 Americans do not use all of their paid vacation days – and yet, by international standards, we don’t get many of those days at all. While you might feel lucky to get paid to relax on the 10 national holidays, countries like Austria enjoy 38 days of paid leave.

It isn’t lazy to take your vacation time. In fact, you should consider it a favor to the rest of your team. Nobody wants to work with a stressed out, exhausted person – no matter how high the pile of work left to do is. There’s always going to be something more to work on when you get back to the office, but you also need to live your life.

Tell Us What You Think

What do you think are the key differences between the U.S. and European work culture? Do you think that there should be mandatory paid vacation and parental leave policies? Join the discussion on Twitter, or leave a comment below.

Kirsty Wareing
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