Congratulations, Canada! Your people take fewer holidays than folks in any other nation on Earth. Even China. That’s right, we here in the Great White North work more hours than people in a country that is in possession of a socio-political ideology that fuses hyper-capitalism and neo-communism.
Wow. Just writing that paragraph made me tired. I need a vacation.
Recently in up-and-coming “newspaper” the The Globe and Mail, John Ibbitson wrote a piece called “We work hard, they enjoy life” – the columnist not only showcases how far behind Canadians are from the global average of vacation days (which is just under 30), but Ibbitson also outlines that, according to a 2010 Ipsos/Reuters poll, less than 60% of Canadians actually make full use of our paltry number of vacation days. A study by the human capital consulting firm Mercer found that, on average, Canadian employers offer a meager minimum of 10 vacation days and just nine statutory holidays. China offers up two more holidays, the Americans are given about 15 days of vacation, and nearly 90% of the French use up all of their 40 days of vacation per year.
This got me thinking about productivity. There are quite literally millions of opinions and thousands of articles and blog posts on the subject and, as a hopefully productive leader of Canada’s experiential learning community, I felt it was important to explore this topic further.
I love the rumour/fact that the French are in possession of the most productive economy on the planet. The argument that the French get the most done while spending the least amount of time at work was recently put forward by Business Insider‘s John Carney and Vincent Fernando. The Wall Street Journal and MSNBC, however, counter with some solid arguments about American productivity – not only do Americans spend more time at work, but they also produce more wealth-per-person than anywhere else.
Whether true productivity comes from France or America it is pretty darn clear that it does not come from Canada. In fact, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canada has been on a bit of a productivity slide lately. This idea has been more recently affirmed by the The Star. We collectively contribute to billions of dollars in lost productivity each year because of illness (coming to work when we’re sick and/or hurting ourselves by working too much), mental health (burning out from the stress of what we do for a living), and not being able to clone Kurt Heinrich.
The logic of Spock is not needed to determine that our vacation days – or lack thereof – have something to do with our could-be-a-heckuvalot-better levels of productivity.
On my own I can’t change Canada’s number of statutory holidays. Only you writing to the most powerful man in the country, Steve Nash, can begin to solve this problem. What I can offer are some peer-reviewed and experientially proven strategies for making people happy. Because happy workers are productive workers. Here are some options to explore.
- Create curious employees who own your business and really care about it.
- Bring pets to the office because, studies show, people like animals.
- Allow for telecommuting and/or a workday that isn’t nine-to-five because this single thing eliminates gridlock traffic by enabling millions of people to not have to get to the same place at the same time down the same road. (About 82% of Fortune’s 2011 100 Best Companies to Work For list offer telecommuting).
- Embrace flex time and/or four day work weeks because not everything is open on Saturdays and Sundays.
- Foster trust with your employees and they’ll stick around forever (almost).
- Be nice and have fun because guys like Kevin Spacey’s character from horrible bosses don’t actually get people to work harder or faster.
Let the record show that any idea must jive with the values, mission and service standards of the company (e.g. if your clients are on site at nine o’clock in the morning until ten o’clock at night for seven days a week then it doesn’t make sense to arrive at eleven o’clock in the morning and work until six o’clock, right?) and the fairness of any decision should apply across all units. And, let’s face it, ideas like these are way more applicable for nimble organizations, as the scalability of “dogs in the office” at, say, the University of British Columbia is pretty darn unrealistic and, if poorly rolled out, could quite possibly result in over 12,000 canines on campus at the same time. Such a thing could take the adorableness of puppies at work down a few notches.
So there it is. Simple ideas can make people happy. And if people are happy we’ll be more productive. And if we’re more productive then maybe – just maybe – Canada will earn one or two more vacation days!