America is the land of the free. But if you’re one of the millions of Americans who work 50, 60, or even 80 hours per week, you might not feel very free. This is the reality for a lot of people who have incredibly demanding positions, work multiple jobs in order to make ends meet, or feel they’d be punished for putting in a standard 40-hour workweek. Some countries are taking measures to help reinstate a sense of work-life balance into their citizens’ lives. In the United States, however, we’re asking workers to push the limits.
Recent surveys have found the average American’s work week is longer than the traditional 40 hours. In some cases, it’s much longer. According to Gallup, the full-time workers in the U.S. average 47 hours per week on the job. Additionally, 21% reported working between 51 and 59 hours per week. And 18% — nearly 1 out of every 5 American workers — said they work more than 60 hours per week.
For these people, a sense of work-life balance is a pipe dream. It’s a fantasy. Millions of people are working themselves to the bone, and it’s killing us. Literally.
In many other countries this isn’t the case. While we should encourage hard work and dedication, we don’t want people wearing themselves down to impress the boss. This is the norm in countries, such as Japan, but most western nations take a much more relaxed attitude toward work.
The proof is in the pudding, according to the latest work-life balance rankings from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Better Life Index. The index ranks 38 countries on a basis of which provides the average worker with the greatest sense of work-life balance, and for Americans, it’s a bleak picture. Out of 38, the United States ranks 30th. As for the top 10? Here are the OECD report’s best countries for work-life balance.