Serviceplan New York encourages time off as an essential part of fostering creativity

Hours worked are not an accurate predictor of employee productivity. Across Europe, it’s culturally accepted and even preached that summer months of July and August are reserved for holidays. People across industries and career levels take weeks off at a time to press reset and come back refreshed for the busiest months of the year. This cultural norm exists partly due to policy – paid annual leave is a legal requirement for employers in nearly every country across Europe. Germany, Spain, Italy, France and Belgium offer 30 days per year.

Meanwhile, the United States is the only advanced economy in the world that does not provide this legal guarantee. a quarter of Americans (primarily middle and lower class workers) go without any paid time off all year. Private sector workers average only 16 days of annual leave per year, half that of their European counterparts. Attitudes towards productivity between the two economies also vary greatly. Americans take pride in the idea of hard work, while Europeans place more value on balance as a part of productivity.

So what are the indicators for productivity? 

It’s logical to look for productivity gaps between the two economies, given the significant differences in hours worked annually. However, according to data from the International Monetary Fund and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the most productive countries (as GDP per capita) are Luxembourg, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark and Iceland. The United States comes in at number six on the list, with Germany close behind in 11th place.

The data also expressed a negative correlation between hours of work and productivity, meaning the less hours worked produced higher GDP per capita. However, this is mainly a trend in non-Wesetern countries that may be less developed and have less access to technology. What’s interesting is that American workers put in more hours per week – 33.6 – than the European countries at the top of the list.

The above analysis is all to say that hours worked is not a clear and accurate measure of success. Employee trust and satisfaction are important considerations as well. A study conducted by the University of Warwick found that happy employees were 12 percent more productive, while dissatisfied workers proved 10 percent less productive. If employees feel bored or undervalued, it greatly affects their performance. 

Employee satisfaction is the answer

When companies create an environment of trust, productivity comes naturally without the need for rigid policies around hours and time off. The Serviceplan Group House of Communication allows for unlimited vacation days – an unusual but not unheard of policy. We believe that the trust created among our multilayer, integrated teams allows for the seamless completion of work as well as work-life balance. By giving our employees a sense of agency in their working lives, we’ve seen both productivity and creativity flourish.

Sources: Center for Economic Policy and Research, International Monetary Fund, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development