The concept of “work-life balance” means different things to different people. Unfortunately, for most it represents an ideal never realized.
The line separating work from personal lives continues to be blurred, aided by continual advances in digital devices. The expectation that we’ll address business-related texts and emails on our personal phones (and these days, who has a separate cell phone just for work?) on personal time makes getting away from the office a true struggle for many.
According to a survey by the Families and Works Institute, the average American spends more time each year in the bathroom than on vacation!
Research by Loyola University reveals that American managers are working one month per year longer than in 1970. In fact, Americans work 137 hours per year more than their Japanese counterparts, yet Japan documents 10,000 cases per year of death by over-work, or “karoshi.” What do you suppose the U.S. karoshi numbers would look like…if we even tracked them? It’s a scary thought and it’s no wonder we don’t like to think about the issue.
How much time do American workers spend on vacation versus their international peers?
Average Annual Vacation Days:
- Italy 42
- France 37
- Germany 35
- Brazil 34
- Britain 28
- Canada 26
- Japan 25
- USA 13
According to recent story in USA Today, 40% of American workers describe their workplace as “most like a real life Survivor [television] program.” Clearly today’s workplace is different than 30 years ago. Corporate “right-sizing,” aka down-sizing, has pushed workers to the breaking point. Vacations are a luxury we can’t afford to take advantage of, lest we get caught up in the next round!
As a result, the American worker is rapidly approaching the edge as work trumps life, and all semblance of balance is lost. Just like with the proverbial frog in hot water, the heat is being turned up so slowly we haven’t even noticed we’re boiling!
Significantly, the Families and Work Institute study also indicates that 63% of all American employees want to work less, up from 46% in 1992. So there is hope that the work-life “balance” may move toward a more healthy equilibrium in the future. For now it’s more myth than reality.