EUROPE - Less Work, More Free Time

Arno Froese

Countries like Germany, Norway, Sweden and France are proving that you don’t have to work eight hour days or more to be productive.

Businesses in these countries offer alternative working options that aim to limit interactions with employees after hours, shorten the work week and encourage leave to be taken, and workers generally report higher levels of overall happiness and engagement.

With UK workers believing that over 36% of their time spent at work is unproductive, we look at what countries around the world are doing to encourage employee engagement and overall happiness.

Research points to the fact that employers reportedly find it easier to attract top talent with flexible working options and a better work life balance. 

Interestingly, the USA is the only country on our list that doesn’t guarantee workers any paid annual leave, and nearly one in four Americans has no paid time off. 

As we already know, Germans have the highest amount of annual leave with a whopping 30 days off annually. In Norway, it’s 21 days each year and in Denmark, the average paid vacation allowance is five weeks. The Danish consider family highly important, so finding a balance for work and home is easy—they have the right to five weeks of holiday a year, of which three weeks can be taken consecutively during the school vacation periods to encourage time with children.

A French employee’s time spent working can be broken up with a generous lunch break that can last 2 hours, and some smaller businesses tend to close for lunch so employees can spend time with their families. Germans follow similar suit, often having full, sit-down lunches with colleagues, with a lunch beer not something that’s frowned upon.

Labour ministries in Germany have banned managers from calling or emailing staff after work hours, except in an emergency, enforcing the idea that employees leave work at work when they go home.

Arno's Commentary

John 11:9 reads: “Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world.” We know that a day consists of 24 hours divided between night and day. Thus, we come to the conclusion that a 12-hour workday is normal and Biblical—obviously, six days a week. In many cases, traveling to and from work is not included, so the actual working hours come closer to 14 hours. That, however, is all history.

The Swiss federal code in 1911 established worker entitlements and safeguards, with holidays and other time off. In 1916, the 8 Hours Act was established in New South Wales in Australia. In 1938, the US Fair Labor Standards Act introduced the 40-hour workweek. In the year 2000, the European Court of Justice declared all hours spent in-residence or on-call must count as working time.

The rules and regulations are endless, but one thing is certain: mankind is working less hours, yet producing more products of higher quality than ever before—and there is no end in sight. How will this continue to develop? Countries with less work time and more paid vacation time show a longer life expectancy and higher levels of overall happiness and contentment.

Doubtless, this will lead to even more leisure and luxury.

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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