Stack of Hands

The Differences Between America’s Working Culture and the Rest of the World

When looking for a new position in your career, the salary is usually one of the first things a prospective employee looks at, closely followed by how well they can further their career thanks to the opportunities they believe will be created. However recent reports show that maybe we should be looking at how America’s corporate culture could be affecting those looking for employment.

Other countries wildly consider America as one of the forerunners in many areas of business yet our work habits are being seen as ‘”oppressive.”

A series of reports has highlighted the fact that many Americans are now dealing with a much longer work week compared to their colleagues abroad. While we are happy to spend longer hours at our desks – as well as eating on the go, losing out on vacation time as well as continuing to work on emails or reports long after we have left the office – the rest of the world has moved on.

In other countries it is seen as normal to have between 20 to 30 days of paid leave, as well as paid parental leave – for both parents –, as well as having the maximum hours you are allowed to work in a week set by law. Some countries are even trying to get the “right to disconnect” brought into law to stop employees being contacted via phone calls and emails once they’ve clocked out.

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While many Americans can be seen working an average 47 hour week, those in Europe have stricter controls. The Working Time Directive, implemented in 1993, has seen employees in the European Union only allowed to work a maximum of 48 hours per week, although those working in Germany will usually work around 35 hours per week. Many Europeans also believe longer working hours are ineffective as it allows you to linger longer on work rather than getting it done in an efficient time frame.

Vacations are another area that varies comparatively. While the US offers employees around two weeks of paid leave each year, nearly 50% of them do not take it. Compare this to countries such as Sweden, where they are currently entitled to five weeks paid annual vacation, you can understand why America is seen as having a corporate culture that is stuck in the dark ages.

Another major difference is parental leave. While America has decided to leave the decision of how long new parents are allowed to take off to the individual company, other countries have laws set to ensure all new parents get time to bond with their new born baby. For example, if you were to have a child in Finland the mother can take maternity leave from as early as seven weeks before the child is due, with a further 16 weeks after the birth, and it’s not just the moms. Finland’s fathers are also entitled to eight weeks of paid leave. Although these options are on offer to all parents, it is worth noting that not all take the leave.

While it may appear that America has a more industrious approach to business compared to a seemingly more relaxed approach around the world, this is not the case as there are also many similarities as well as differences.

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Obviously most employees will want to produce the best work possible while collaborating with colleagues across the office, country or world. So how can we break down these barriers and make the American workforce a place many will want to continue working in?

First of all, it’s good practice to only employ workers who not only have the same passions for the company as the majority of the team, but who also actually want to be there. By having employees that are happy at work, the work should theoretically be done in the required time, meaning your staff can go home happy at 5pm on a Friday, knowing they will not need to be contacted again until they come back in at 8am on a Monday morning.

It is also important for all annual leave to be taken. With nearly half of our workforce not taking their leave – whether it is for personal reasons or because work pressures cannot allow it – sickness, both physically and mentally, can increase. By enforcing your holiday time with colleagues they should be back at work refreshed meaning they will provide a more productive working environment.

Ensure that communication between colleagues – as well as supervisors, managers and directors – are open meaning that if there are problems in the workplace they should feel happy to discuss them with someone higher up the ladder than them. By resolving problems when they arise you should stop them getting bigger in the future.

By respecting everyone’s culture, regardless of where they are from, we should be able to finally bring our draconian culture into the twenty first century.