You know, I hear a lot of people complain about work — how busy we are, how swamped we are, how crazy things are at work. I’m not excusing myself — I do it too, and check in on my iPhone constantly when I’m not sitting at my laptop. And while I believe you, I really do, about how busy things are for you, I also wonder if, well…you love to work? I know I do. From the mundane returning e-mails to piecing together stories to keeping up a professional presence on Twitter, I have to admit that I do love to work and maybe even just thrive a bit on it when things are busy. After all, I’m self-employed and so when I’m busy, it means there’s plenty of work rolling in the door.
So it was no surprise to come across this study that discovered…Americans live to work. And they love to work. Work makes them happy. (For us north of the 49th, I’m grossly generalizing that there’s not much difference.) The study, which appeared in the April issue of The Journal of Happiness Studies, noted that of those studied, those in the U.S. who work longer hours are actually happier, while those in Europe who work longer hours are less happy. According to The Daily Mail’s report, it’s not that the actual work that’s putting a smile on our faces; it’s about perception. As the study concludes, “The findings suggest that Americans may be happier working more because they believe more than Europeans do that hard work is associated with success.”
And then of course along with that association the researchers noted, who can forget the laissez-faire attitude that lies as an undercurrent to many European countries: that work is a part of your life, but not all-consuming.With much of my own family based in the Netherlands, I’ve faced this on many visits over there — what, you only have two weeks here? Why can’t you stay longer? Here we get a month off a time! (I soon learned to stop visiting Holland in August, the month when much of my family would drive off to other parts of Europe for a month. Spain, Italy, Switzerland…sigh.)
And while North Americans have long verbally admired the European approach to work-life balance, we haven’t seemed to be able to incorporate it into our work culture. So maybe if anything, it’s a matter of learning to adjust our expectations? Is it possible to redefine success as the lives we’re living, the friends and family we have and the experiences we’re having rather than our things? Can we do that?
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