A few days ago I was contacted about sharing this infographic with you all.

After I looked over it for a few minutes I found some interesting facts about how much work we actually put in and how the new status quo is changing.  As a blog centered on worklife balance, I felt encouraged to share this with you.


Image by: Business Insurance Source

Key Take Aways

1. We Work More Hours a Year Than Canada, the U.K., and Belgium.

I don’t know why Belgium was selected vs Germany or France or some other industrialized European countries, but the point was still interesting.  Why are Americans working more hours than some of our comparable neighbors?  Is it because of laws or by choice?  I don’t know, but that’s something I’d be curious to learn.

The fact that Mexico beat us doesn’t surprise me.  I’m also pretty sure if they included BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) countries in this list we may have been out-shined by those as well.

2.  70% of American Children Live in Households Where All Adults Are Employed.

This one is kind of sad to me personally.  With inflation and prices increasing while wages stay stagnant for the most part, both parents have to work to afford a decent way of life for them and their children at the cost of being able to spend time raising them.

I grew up with my mother at home.  When I was 8 years old I was diagnosed with Leukemia.  If my mom had to work on top of raising my brother, sister and I all while helping me fight cancer, I don’t know how we would have kept everything together.

I realize now how lucky I was.

3.  1 in 3 American Adults Doesn’t Take Their Vacation Days.

Who is crazy enough not to take free time off?  However, I totally understand why this happens 33% of the time.

For many of us work doesn’t take a vacation so we can’t either.  We always have that project coming up, a campaign to launch, or some other pressing need back at the office.  Looking at taking vacation at the moment looks impossible.

One thing we always encourage in our office is to set the time aside several months ahead of time.  If we plan it in advance, we do our best to accommodate the work load around each others’ vacation times.

What Do You Think?

Do Americans work as hard as this chart suggests?  Are we on course to burn out as a country?  What did you take away from this?

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52 thoughts on “Workaholism in America (Are Americans Lazy?)

  1. That is an awesome infographic. I heard that research firms are sharing market research data in the form of infographics now because people enjoy reading them when compared to long content based reports. The information is great.

  2. Guilty! I’m one of those that don’t take (or don’t take all) of my vacation time. Part of it is where I work we get “anniversary” pay, rather than “vacation” pay, so I’ve tended to spend that money on other things.

    Oh, I’ll take a few days off to go do things with family. Just last month, about the same time I reformatted my site, I went on a road trip with my family. (One nice thing about blogging is you can do it anywhere :D) But I just don’t feel I can often afford to take whole weeks off during the year.

    Maybe as I build an alternate income, I can do so more, but for now, I do what I can.

    Great graphic, BTW. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Most definitely, Americans work too much. Several of the people that I work with take minimal or no vacation time and when they do, they bring their laptops and work cell phones a long with them. I knew pretty early on in my life that I did not want to spend my me on earth in this way. And so I made it my commitment to do whatever I needed to do to have the flexibility to do the things that I enjoyed. This resulted in me becoming an independent corporate trainer and now a technical writer with a lot of work flexibility.

  4. Yikes! I see a lot of myself in your infographic. Although, I will say that I did recently quit my teaching job to focus on my website and to help my husband. Both of which I was doing while I was teaching. At least now that my time is mostly my own, I do have much more flexibility.

    Your post was very insightful. Now I need to learn to relax a little!

  5. Both of my parents worked when I was growing up. I also only did the amount necessary although I did have one job where I really had to put in some overtime for several months due to moving, that sort of thing. But I never got paid for that, I was salaried.

    I do enjoy checking out the infographics much more than reading a long drawn out statistical article Bryce so good job with that. I’m really not surprised at what I saw. Not at all.

  6. Fabulous graphic! I’m sure the numbers are accurate, if anything I feel like they number of hours worked may even be low. (I wonder if the other countries are including the time spent eating lunch in the length of their days.)

    The list of holidays is interesting too….I’ve never worked for a company that took all of those days off. What lucky people (non-governmental employees that is) get to take Columbus Day and Washington’s birthday off. Lucky ducks.

  7. Bryce Christiansen

    I agree Eddie. Infographics are much more enjoyable. Usually the key points can be summarized in a few sentences so it makes sense why not take this research and put it out in a format that is enjoyable to read.

    Much better than digging through a 20 pg report to find the same info.


  8. Bryce Christiansen

    At my last job I had half my vacation unused before I left. I can relate as well. Thankfully, it’s hard to have that excuse any more when the company you work for is called Balanced WorkLife 😉

    I’m glad you liked it. I’ll share more infographics if these appeal to you all. That will be a great feeling when you have the alternate income streams supporting your time off.

    Good luck Grady,


  9. Bryce Christiansen

    I’ve had those jobs where they want you available always, even when it makes no sense. I always hated that.

    I’m still working while at home many times. I can’t help it though. I love talking with everyone here on the blog or on Twitter even on the weekends.

    I think the economy has also had a role in this. When jobs are harder to get and the competition to stay hired is higher than ever, sometimes all we can think of doing to stand out is working more and more hours.

    I really hope we aren’t going to face some major burnouts soon, but hopefully we can find a good balance between work and life.


  10. Bryce Christiansen

    Hi Tisa,

    It’s always good to meet a new face. Are you thinking of adding a blog to your site? I’d love to visit and comment.

    Teachers make excellent bloggers and commenters. Hope all works out for you. Sounds like you have a good mind on work life balance.


  11. Bryce Christiansen

    Adrienne, you leave the best comments.

    It sounds like you are well experienced in hard work. My mom is a speech therapist for several schools in the city, and it breaks my heart to see her work 7 days a week now in order to keep up with the demands of her job with all the budget cuts schools have had to make.

    I’m sure she isn’t the only one working that hard either.

    I’m glad you enjoyed the infographic. I prefer visual learning when it comes to statistics like this as well.

    If I am offered any others in the future I will be sure to share them.



  12. Bryce Christiansen

    Seriously! The only time I got those holidays off were when I worked for a bank. I was in college and had plenty of jealous friends at the time.

    Thanks for stopping by Kathy, I’m a huge fan of your site. You are so insightful and always share something in a way I’ve never seen before.

    Keep up the good work.


  13. Ah that’s so nice of you to say Bryce. I do my best! :-)

    I had jobs where I was doing a good bit of the work and I should have probably stayed over but my attitude started to get worse I would say about the last five years I was in the workforce. I felt if you didn’t think that what I did was worth paying me more because I was doing the work of more than one person, I’m not staying late to finish it. If I couldn’t get it done within the hours I was there then obviously you need to hire someone else. I know that’s not the best attitude to have and it probably wouldn’t fly now but Bryce, I worked with some very lazy people so I stood my ground. I’m sorry your Mom is having to deal with that. It’s sad that’s what it’s come to just to keep your job.

    I do learn visually a lot better as well. Or I enjoy learning through visual methods more. I can understand them better.

    Thanks again…

  14. Hi Bryce, Love the graphic. I do believe American spend to much time working. I think we have actually backed ourselves into a corner. We want to many material things, rather than enjoy what we have, like the people we love.

    People do not know how to enjoy life anymore. You are programed to be measured by how much money you make, rather that the person you are. Everyone is out to impress the next guy. Who has the biggest house, most cars and the list goes on.

    America has it priorties all messed up.

    When you first met someone these days, they don’t say how are you, the say, “What do you do?” And if you don’t bring in a pay check, you must be lazy.

    As for myself, I do take days off from my website and play with the grand kids or just have a day to myself or with hubby on the weekends when he is home.

    Life is to short for work all the time. I work to live not live to work.
    Blessing and sorry I got a little carried away.
    Blessing always

  15. Bryce Christiansen

    I appreciate your thoughts Debbie. It’s very true that we are becoming a culture centered on work more than anything else.

    You sound like your priorities are set in the right direction. Over the weekend there were many touching moments along the events of 9/11 and one of the themes brought up one after another was the value of spending time with those who are important to us. None of the surviving families of 9/11 suspected they wouldn’t see their loved ones return that morning.

    Really puts it in perspective.


  16. Bryce Christiansen

    I don’t blame you. Companies sometimes try to see how far they can stretch their staff and that isn’t fair either.

    Thanks for your empathy for my mom. I’ll be seeing her tonight and will have to see if things have gotten any better.

    Great post on 9/11 btw.


  17. Mannnnnnnn. This is NOT good!

    Personally, I hate work. I find it to be a convention that I don’t appreciate. All I am getting a part-time job soon, I really hope to never work a full-time job again in my life.

    Spending 40 hours a week making someone else rich is just obscene to me. Whatever you have to do to make ends meet, sure. But try to come up with something else in the meantime!

    Or else we end up with this infographic. :(

  18. Thanks Bryce! And Back at ya.

  19. Bryce Christiansen

    Seriously, we are in trouble if we don’t find adequate ways to balance our time. Burnout, divorce, sickness, none of those are good options.

    Thanks for stopping by, I will be making it over to check out Life is Not a Video Game very soon.


  20. This is an interesting set of graphics. I don’t have stats at hand, but most of the over-achievers I have/do know(n) work long weeks in pursuit of the almighty dollar. Sometimes this comes in the form of “career advancement”, having to work hard to get that next promotion. But these cases still seem to be motivated by money; needing more and more to maintain their chosen life style and keep up with The Jones’.

    In many cases simply deciding to give up the Country Club membership would allow them to work fewer hours and spend more time with their families.

    The ones that I find most discouraging are the two income families where one income is being devoted almost entirely to paying for child care! Yes, sometimes, both parents feel they NEED to have a job so they are “productive”, but this, I believe is simply a case of skewed priorities. Raising ones children in a proper, loving, nurturing environment is far more important than some workerbees seem to think.

  21. Bryce Christiansen

    Thanks Allan,

    You and I can definitely agree on the priority of raising children over a job for “productivity.” Here’s a wake up call. Full time mothers are often more “productive” than your average cubical worker. Running errands, doing laundry, picking up kids, feeding them, bathing them, reading to them, and everything else that is involved takes some major time dedication.

    I respect that. I know not everyone agrees with us Allan, but I know from my own experience how blessed I was to have a mom around.

    Thanks for speaking up Allan,


  22. Hi,

    May I add a non American point of view? Compared with other developed countries, Americans do seem to work much more. But in my Singapore where we live, we could hardly breathe. A lot of my countries speed and long working hours is due to the fact that we are a very competitive society. Too competitive for my liking. It is not a choice we as a people have. If you are a child in our schools, it is a norm to start school at 7.30am and end at 5pm everyday. I think your culture is much more relaxed when it comes to breeding workaholics.


  23. Bryce Christiansen

    Thanks so much for adding your view Jimmy.

    I love it. Sometimes I live in a bubble and don’t even think about what it must be like in other countries. I am shocked by how lax some of my college classes were, let alone my pre college studies.

    I think you are 100% right about education in the U.S. We pay teachers poorly, we fill classrooms to the max, and we go through the motions many times when it comes to schooling. I’m incredibly impressed how other countries raise such brilliant kids.

    When I got to the university, it was clear that the foreign students were often getting much better grades than the local party happy kids that took school for granted.

    Thanks for speaking up Jimmy, I’m glad we could hear your unique perspectives.


  24. I believe that this chart is accurate. Both my husband and I have worked in offices where the employer works long hours, so the employees feel they have to as well. I think there is an unwritten rule that if you don’t put in the hours and the face time, someone is always waiting in the wings that will. Also, I think the amount of travel with work these days is outrageous and that just adds to the work day. Not to mention the exhaustion and the time away from the family and kids. With all the technology around skype and video conferencing, I’m shocked that we haven’t moved away from the waste of money and time that is air travel, and moved more toward these innovative forms of communication.

    I have worked off and on since my kids were born, but am blessed that I have mostly been working at home. I am glad that your mother didn’t have the stress of an outside job while you were both dealing with your frightening illness. I can’t imagine what that would be like. It’s wonderful that you were able to overcome the disease.

    Great post – thank you!

  25. One more thing – I wonder if these numbers actually include travel time?

  26. Hi Bryce, Fantastic article! I’m thinking that your experience with Lukemia as a child helped you to appreciate how precious life is and how it shouldn’t be squandered by spending too much time at the office. My mom was sick with cancer for much of my childhood, so I really appreciate that I have been able to stay at home with my kids. I respect moms who choose to work and those who can’t afford to stay at home. What bugs me is the moms who say they can’t afford to stay home, then show off their new luxury car.

    Anyway, we returned to the US from living in England a year ago and the workaholism seems to be cultural. But even within Europe, some countries have longer work weeks than others. Europeans pretty much think we’re nuts to work so hard. But many Asian cultures think Americans don’t work long hours (as Jimmy pointed out).

    Unfortunately, with employment being treasured more now than during a thriving economy, I sincerely doubt Americans are going to work fewer hours. Facetime seems to be key in the US, more so than efficiency, it seems.

    Thanks so much, Bryce, for this amazing article with effective graphics. Can we make this required reading for all Americans? Please?

    PS A great vacation if you want to be forced out of communication is a cruise. When you’re at sea, you’re pretty much cut off from the outside world. :-)

  27. Hey Bryce. I didn’t know that you had Leukemia when you were 8. I am glad to here that you had overcame it.

    I do believe that American work way too much and way too hard. It is an expectation to work your ass off so that you can spend your glory days hanging out in McDonalds.

    I like Tim Ferris’s approach. It says to work hard for a while then take min-retirements in between. I like this approach because I plan to work/contribute until my very last days.

  28. Hi Bryce,

    Great information. We do work hard, and during this recession it’s probably just getting worse. Balancing some free time contributes to your good health as your graphic points out, and being a workaholic doesn’t benefit anyone. I’m somewhat free right now from a 9 to 5 job,
    (I used to teach school.) and I find myself working on my own projects. I’m getting away at the end of this week where I will be out of reach of technology which I’m looking forward to. We all need that kind of break as well.

  29. Hi Bryce,

    Having worked in three continents ( US, Asia and Europe) and I think people in US and Asia work really the most and hardest.
    I remember when my team lead from USA were in office early in the morning to have a chat with teams worldwide while also they took calls from home in the evening to meet time zone challenges. I think too much work leads to a lot of stress and troubled life leading to divorces.
    I think too much competition is really eating into our lives and making it difficult to live. I like the European work -life balance with enough holidays to release stress and refresh yourself.
    If the work really feels like work then there is no fun at all . I hope the situation improves

  30. Bryce Christiansen

    I appreciate this very much Suerae.

    I think you’ve nailed it. Employers also are working more and that can influence the work their employees feel they need to put in. Travel adds to it.

    Thankfully, I can work from home from time to time as well thanks to Skype, remote desktop, and call forwarding. Technology can bless or curse us with allowing us to work from anywhere these days.

    As for your question about travel time, I’m not sure either. Probably not though, don’t you think?

  31. Bryce Christiansen

    Hehe, I love the last part. What a brilliant idea. Not much you can do to stay up on work when you are on a boat in the middle of the ocean.

    I can respect those mothers who have to work in order to provide for their children as well. That’s not easy by any means. I know it’s not their ideal choice most times either.

    Thanks for the European perspective as well. It seems among us there is quite a set of perspectives on how we compare as a country.

    We probably are going to be working more and more like you said. My only question is will we be learning how to cope with the extra work loads? Will we be sufficiently prepared to prevent burnout, stress, and anxiety that goes along with the additional work?

    I guess we’ll see.


  32. Bryce Christiansen

    Thanks Justin,

    I understand why Tim takes that approach. Why do we wait till we are old and frail to enjoy our time off when we could be enjoying our time as we go through our life? Who knows if we will even make it to our retirement years? Hopefully we all will though.

    This is a tough issue. What should people do? I personally set expectations early on when I start my job. I come in at 8 and leave at 5. I only come in on weekends if it is crucial. To me, spending time with my family is too important to leave off.

  33. Bryce Christiansen

    Hi Cathy,

    How are you doing? I love this comment.

    Our health, family, and time are very important and if you aren’t careful work can do harm to each of those.

    Hope you have a good tech free vacation. I got back from one of those this July and it was a great feeling.

    Thanks for sharing Cathy,


  34. Bryce Christiansen

    Hi Ashvini,

    Those are excellent points. You certainly have seen this issue from many angles.

    I used to work in a team that had round the clock staff as well so that makes sense to me too.

    Globalization has made competition a dominant force lately. Americans didn’t used to have to worry about competing with talent in Asia or third world countries. Now Americans have to step up their talent and work ethic if they want to have a fighting chance of competing on a global level.


  35. Bryce Christiansen

    Thanks Tisa,

    I look forward to getting to know you. I’m learning the art of blogging as I go so we probably can both learn from eachother.

    I’ll be stopping by your blog later today.


  36. In my humble opinion, people need to learn QUALITY or QUANTITY. And that goes for anything in life. But since we are talking work, well, more doesn’t mean better and it doesn’t mean the boss won’t still can you. It just means you worked more. Take your vacations already. You’ll love yourself more, respect yourself more and maybe find a better job. :-)

    Just my humble opinion.


  37. Bryce Christiansen

    This is great. That’s an excellent point. You might work your butt off and still get fired.

    Thanks for the comment, I really appreciate it. Looking forward to learning more about you Allie and am thrilled to be a fellow tribe mate.


  38. I think Americans work too much, and it’s unfortunate that we’re moving in the wrong direction. While productivity may be going up, happiness is going down.

    I’m also not a believer in the 40-hour work week as the standard. Just because you’re at work 40 hours a week doesn’t mean you have 40 hours of work to do nor get 40 hours done.

  39. Bryce Christiansen

    It’s going to get interesting with the next generation entering the workforce. Everything I’m reading says that the values are changing. Younger workers are valuing time over money.

    Maybe we’ll see this shift back down.

    I think that’s an interesting point you mention about 40 hour work weeks also. That’s another thing we just kind of got used to and never sat back and asked why?

    Great points Jeffrey, thanks for visiting and I’m proud to have you as a tribes mate.


  40. Wow! This is such a revealing infographic, Bryce! As a visual learner, this piece definitely had an impact! Truly, this was one of the reasons I was attracted to the idea of moving to Peru. It has been way easier for me to take time off here without feeling guilty and without feeling the pressure to be somehow productive at all minutes of the day. In fact, I’ve learned the value of doing “nothing” here and in that nothingness, I’ve found true relaxation and creativity I never knew I had! =)

    Thanks for bringing light to this issue, friend!

  41. I DO think we work more. But not happier. We think idleness is the devil’s waterslide (and his teeter-totter of fire too.)

    I think less of a nanny state does make its people rush about.

    So, how to balance? There’s a big old rub.

  42. Bryce Christiansen

    Great Samantha,

    I really appreciate all the comments we are getting from people who have had experience working outside of the U.S.

    Sometimes nothingness is just the kind of recharger we need.

    Really great comment Samantha,

    Thanks for sharing,


  43. Bryce Christiansen

    Hehe, indeed idleness is the devil’s teeter-totter of fire.

    Balance is the issue. Some people can work 60 hour weeks and still have a balanced worklife, so it’s not as simple as just cutting hours.

    Great comment Jannie.


  44. Vic

    Hi Bryce,

    I think Americans are workaholics. If you are not working 50+ hours a week, people start to think you are lazy. I tend to go more for the European model for work.

    I use to be stationed in Germany, but never worked out in the economy. I did notice that most Germans closed up most business by 5pm. As for Sunday’s you will be lucky to find anything but restaurants open.

    It really comes down to money verses time. I chose time, because I can manage my time better than a corporation can.

  45. Bryce Christiansen

    Hi Vic,

    Welcome to the blog. I’ve read many of your comments on other blogs so it is good to see you here.

    What you said at the end was really neat. “I chose time, because I can manage my time better than a corporation can.”

    In companies where autonomy is not a part of the culture, it’s hard to find fulfillment from your time since none of it seems to be in your hands to do with as you would see fit.

    Thanks for the comment, hope to see you around in the future.


  46. Hi Bryce….

    The stats show about the work deeds of American as compared to other countries. I am totally agreed with the info. Workaholics people increase day bu day every where but in US there population is quite more. I really feel informative by reviewing this post. There is some need of the laws regarding to work but people think about money not about their own health issues.

    Regard and Thanks,

  47. Bryce Christiansen

    Thanks Joe for the comment. It’s always good to have a new reader.

    It was a surprise to me too to see how many people weren’t taking their vacation days and all the other facts.

    Have a good week,


  48. Anna

    What to say! Not only in America! Nowadays society is workaholic and so eager to have more and more money…I don’t know why greed gains such dimensions but it freaks me out because after all our life is suffering and our family as well…

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