What The Average Workday Looks Like Around The World
Often, the typical workday doesn't resemble anything we imagined during our school years or witnessed on TV and in film. The daily grind can become mundane; hard work doesn't always get noticed or rewarded; lunches turn into quick bites of sandwiches while we work from our desks; and long commutes have us drained by the end of the day. Then, embarrassing mistakes and awkward interactions with coworkers leave us wishing we could have stayed home.
Do people around the world experience the same discomforts? These familiar yet less-than-desirable experiences led us to wonder what it's like to hold a job in other locales. Here are the benefits and drawbacks of working in different countries. Vote up those that seem like the best places to work.
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Hours: German workers on average work only 35 hours each week. Some estimates hold an even lower weekly rate - suggesting that some Germans may spend as few as 26 hours at work throughout the week.
PTO: Every 5-day work week employee receives 20 days of PTO per year, though most employers grant up to 30.
Lunch and Breaks: Germans take full advantage of their midday breaks, called Mittagspause, and sit down at restaurants to enjoy full meals with their coworkers. Because lunch is usually their biggest meal of the day, diners order filling dishes like potato salad, sausages, schnitzel, and fries - all washed down with a good beer.
Commute: Typical German commute times average 42 minutes.
Parental Leave: New parents living in Germany are in luck - they can take up to three years of parental leave. For the first 14 months they can also both apply to receive parental leave allowance, which is typically 65-100% of their pay.
After Hours: Bosses aren't supposed to contact their employees outside of working hours - in 2013, the German labor ministry banned managers from contacting staff during off hours (except in emergencies) to avoid undue stress.
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Hours: Finnish employees typically work 6 hours and 45 minutes a day, tying with Canada for one of the shortest workdays in the world.
PTO: Workers in Finland enjoy a guaranteed four weeks of paid vacation in the summer and another full week during the winter. Those who forgo their vacation time by working through the designated holidays receive full pay for their extra time in the office or on the job.
Lunch and Breaks: In addition to the country's abbreviated workday, employees also receive three breaks throughout the day: two 20-minute breathers, plus a half-hour for lunch.
Commute: Most Finns spend around 45 minutes driving to and from work each day.
Parental Leave: Pregnant employees receive up to 105 weeks of leave, and partners receive 54 days of time off for the birth of a child. New parents also have the option to work part-time for at least two months.
After Hours: Laws limit the amount of overtime employees can work to 250 hours yearly, but employees can also request up to 80 additional hours, if they wish. The only stipulation is that they must not accrue more than 138 overtime hours within a four-month period.
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Hours: Most businesses in the Netherlands run on a rather unique schedule, from 8:40 am to 5:10 pm.
PTO: National laws require employers to give full-time employees at least 20 days of paid time off per year. Part-timers earn four times the number of hours they work per week, so if you have a 25-hour workweek, you'll receive 100 hours of yearly PTO.
Employers often award their staff even more paid yearly leave: between 24 and 32 days. Most businesses allow these days to accumulate if an employee chooses not to use them in a particular calendar year.
Lunch and Breaks: Coffee lovers may have a reason to work in the Netherlands, as employers offer their staff multiple coffee breaks throughout the day. As a trade-off, lunches usually only last 30 minutes.
Commute: Travel times to and from work are relatively short. Some 52% of employed people spend between 1 and 29 minutes commuting. It's rare for anyone to spend more than an hour on the road or rails.
Parental Leave: Women have up to four months of paid leave and have the option to take six of those weeks before the baby is born. Partners also receive six weeks of paid leave. Parents are allowed to take leave anytime during the child's first eight years so they can spend more time as a family. However, this leave is usually unpaid.
After Hours: Friday afternoons are reserved for going out drinks with co-workers, known as borrel or borrelen. These informal social gatherings are one of the Dutch community's favorite pastimes. In addition to drinks, patrons also dine on traditional snacks, which are often deep-fried.
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Hours: Canadians luxuriously experience the shortest workday in the world (actually, they're tied with Finland). According to a Printerland study, the average employee only worked six hours and 45 minutes per day.
PTO: Every province in Canada offers two weeks of PTO, with the exception of Saskatchewan, which provides three weeks.
Lunch and Breaks: Workers receive one 40-minute lunch break throughout their short work schedule, usually beginning at noon. Most diners choose something quick and simple, like a soup or sandwich.
Commute: Most Canadians travel to work by car and experience long commute times of more than an hour each way.
Parental Leave: New mothers usually have up to 17 weeks of unpaid leave, with parental leave set at up to 63 weeks unpaid leave.
After Hours: In 2021, Ontario passed a law prohibiting employers from contacting their staff after working hours. As of 2022, it is the only province to make the disconnect between work and home life.
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Hours: Full-time employees typically work 40 hours per week, but those hours can be divided between five or six days.
PTO: The amount of time someone has worked for a company determines how much paid time off they receive. By the second year, workers who stick to a five-day schedule earn 21 days of paid vacation. Those who work six days a week earn 25 days. Once employees have been in the workforce for 12 years, this number increases to 25 or 30 days, respectively, even if they didn't remain with the same company the whole time. Still, company loyalty is rewarded, as those who work for the same business for 10 years receive these same benefits.
Lunch and Breaks: Companies must give employees one 15-minute break if a workday exceeds six hours. Some Greeks spend up to three hours on their lunch breaks. Lunch is the largest meal of the day and consists of socializing around a table and enjoying plenty of food. Courses include an appetizer, main course, and dessert.
Commute: It's not uncommon for Greek employees to spend an hour or more driving on the roads or riding public transit to reach their workplace.
Parental Leave: Greek laws state that women receive 17 weeks of paid maternity leave when they have a child, and national laws protect new mothers from being fired in the first 18 months after giving birth. They may also take an additional six months of leave, earning minimum wage for the duration. Partners, on the other hand, only receive two days of paid leave for a child's birth. Both parents may take four months of unpaid leave at any time between the child's birth and the first six years of life.
After Hours: If an employer requires overtime, workers receive 40% extra pay on top of what they already earn. Employees earn a 60% premium of their base pay if the work is considered urgent. Anything over 45 hours per five-day week or 48 hours per six-day week qualifies for the bonus income.
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Hours: Spain has one of the longest-running workdays in all of Europe due to its scheduled naps (known as siestas). Traditionally, Spanish employees could expect to work until 8 pm each night.
PTO: Employees receive 30 calendar days off per year (22 working days), which they must use by the end of each December. Any unused days are forfeited.
Lunch and Breaks: As temperatures warm in the summer, most businesses give their workers time for siestas, as the heat negatively impacts their productivity. However, many people now advocate shortening these breaks, in an attempt to send employees home earlier in the evenings. Before workers rest, they indulge in the largest meal of the day: la comida. This two-hour experience features multiple dishes, including a soup or salad, paella, seafood stew or another meat or fish dish, and a dessert.
Commute: The average time a worker spends commuting is around an hour a day.
Parental Leave: Both parents are entitled to 16 weeks of unpaid parental leave, with up to 13 weeks added if a child is born premature or with a medical condition. If a parent has paid social security for 180 days of the previous seven years, or 360 days from the time they first started working, the employer is required to pay a regular salary during their time away from the office. During the baby's first nine months, both parents are also awarded an hour each day of “breastfeeding leave.”
After Hours: Workers are required to have at least 1 ½ days off every week and cannot accumulate more than 80 hours of overtime per year.