Europeans Got It Good: Study Shows Mandatory Paid Vacation Leads to More Productive Workers

Europeans are known around the world for taking long vacations, and while to everyone else it may seem frivolous, it turns out that there may actually be a method behind their madness.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, more vacation leads to more productive workers. And it’s no coincidence, as nine out of the top 10 most productive countries found by OECD were in Europe. For perspective, the United States ranked sixth.

Each culture in Europe has its own vacation tradition. For example, in Norway, the term fellesferie represents the two to three weeks of vacation that almost everyone in the country takes in July. The Netherlands have a bouwvak policy, where employees in the building industry take holidays for weeks at a time to preserve their health. In France, even Parisian bakers, who are some of the most highly revered workers in the city, are given paid vacation during the summer months. On top of these traditions, the European Union mandates a full 20 paid vacation days per year.

Paid vacation is a concept that not many Americans can relate to. The United States is the only country in the OECD that does not have a federal mandate for paid vacation, and shockingly enough, even when people are given the benefit, they don’t always take it.

Many Americans choose to forgo vacations as a way to get ahead in the office. This doesn’t always pan out as being true, however, as it usually just leads to more stress in both their work and personal lives. It’s quite unfortunate: employees who never took personal time off are 68% to 73% more likely to feel bogged down at work, and 41% to 48% more likely to experience more stress at home, too.

Because skipping vacations only causes more headaches in the long run, some forward-thinking CEOs are actually making an effort to force their employees to take a vacation. Shashank Nigam, the CEO of SimpliFlying is just one example. He noticed that more and more of his employees were forgoing vacation days, so he decided to step in and make sure his employees took paid vacation once every eight weeks. If they didn’t take the time, their pay would be taken away.

At first, there was some pushback from employees who didn’t want to risk missing anything while they were out. But, since the implementation, SimpliFlying’s team productivity has increased 17%. This means that the Europeans could really be on to something.

Even while they are on vacation, many Americans express that they are having difficulties relaxing and getting their mind off work. So how do they create a happy medium? As per, some ideas include:


    • Investing in a vacation home: If you need an excuse to get out of the house, consider buying a vacation home. Of course, make sure a second home fits into your household budget first. About 3% of U.S. households own a timeshare, and these services often cause more stress in the long run.


    • Don’t be afraid to check in from time to time: Some experts believe that totally unplugging can cause a lot of anxiety. If you have a big project that you are concerned about, don’t be afraid to check up on it, but just limit your time.


    • Try something new and different: Your vacation is meant to be fun — so consider picking up a new hobby while you’re out of the office! Activities like horseback riding, zip lining, or the increasingly popular sea glass collecting are all great ideas that will get you up and moving.


    • Plan ahead: If you’re constantly thinking about work while soaking up the sun poolside, then the stress-relieving benefits of vacation may elude you. Plan as far ahead as possible so that you can leave work knowing that your most important responsibilities will be covered while you are away.

So go out and be like the Europeans. Take a vacation; your boss will thank you.

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