Vacation: Systems Thinking

Posted on August 4, 2006  Comments (3)

There’s more vacation time on tap for you (in the USA) by Chris Taylor:

U.S. employees are taking less time off than ever: Not only is the average number of annual vacation days granted to them a mere 12.4 – less than that of the average medieval peasant – but more than a third of us don’t even use all of our allotted time off.

While a dramatic contrast, I don’t really believe it is accurate. I believe workers in the USA get 8 to 10 paid holidays in addition to the 12.4 paid vacation days. Which contrasts with my view of medieval peasants. Part of the vacation issue is a decision, by workers, to seek more pay rather than more vacation. I want to look at the point to some of the organizational issues here though.

Several factors make it desirable to work those you have more. Health care insurance costs are high, if you can get 1900 hours of work a year for the health care premium instead of 1500 hours that can add up to a great deal of savings. Of course if you decrease the health of your workforce, in doing so, that will drive up the costs per worker (but that is one of those unknowable numbers Dr. Deming discussed while the expenditure per worker is easy to see). It costs money to hire, train, manage… people. The fewer you have the less associated costs. Assuming other things stay the same. Or course that assuming is the tricky part.

Yet more studies have shown, not surprisingly, that an overworked employee is more likely to make mistakes and get angry at their bosses – and 30 percent of us feel chronically overworked. Indeed, job burnout costs the U.S. economy an estimated $300 billion a year in accidents, employee turnover, diminished productivity and medical costs, according to the American Institute of Stress.

It would seem the American Institute of Stress might have a bias, but even so…

Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency by Tom DeMarco which discuss the misguided practices of working harder as a long term strategy. Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister authored Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams which is also great.

U.S. workers feel burn of long hours, less leisure:

But they’re the exception. U.S. workers put in an average of 1,815 hours in 2002. In major European economies, hours worked ranged from about 1,300 to 1,800, according to the International Labor Organization (ILO). Hours were about the same in the USA as in Japan.?

Employees feel the strain. Mounting research shows there’s a tangible downside to overwork, from mental-health problems to physical ailments and job injuries caused by fatigue and stress. It’s also a bottom-line issue: A study by the Economic Policy Institute found that mandatory overtime costs industry as much as $300 billion a year in stress- and fatigue-related problems.

We aren’t whining, we do work too much

The study said that last year productivity per American worker in constant 1990 dollars was $54,870, about $1,500 more than Belgium, the No. 2 nation. The report found that productivity per worker in the United States was $10,000 higher than in Canada last year and $14,000 higher than in Japan.

But partly because of the comparatively high number of hours Americans work, the report found that France and Belgium edged out the United States in productivity per hour. In France, which ranked first, workers produced $33.71 of value added per hour on average, compared with $32.98 in Belgium and $32.84 in the United States.

Reluctant Vacationers: Why Americans Work More, Relax Less, than Europeans

3 Responses to “Vacation: Systems Thinking”

  1. Medieval Peasants had More Vacation Time at Curious Cat Investing and Economics Blog
    August 16th, 2008 @ 12:27 pm

    I would rather reduce my spending and have more free time. I have taken unpaid vacation myself, and have worked part time, at times, to buy myself more freedom to spend my time as I wished…

  2. Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog » Work and Life
    November 4th, 2010 @ 10:06 am

    [...] USA has enormous financial wealth. But vacation time in the USA is much less than most other rich countries. I think, by and large, this is a mistake in the USA. It is true part of the reason for the [...]

  3. Working Less: Better Lives and Less Unemployment at Curious Cat Economics Blog
    July 15th, 2012 @ 5:58 pm

    “We also have to work quite a few hours (about 5% of the total hours) to just bring us equal with other rich countries, in order to pay for our broken health care system…”

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