July 12, 2011
Of all the OECD countries, Korea has by far the longest working hours of any other nation. Logging an average of 2256 hours in 2008, Korea also has the third highest suicide rate behind Hungary and Japan.
In a recent Financial Times article (German edition), the head of the state-run tourist agency, whose name is none other than Lee Charm, is actually lobbying for workers to take their mandated two weeks off per year. Some companies are even blocking their computer access so they can’t work even if they wanted to.
Looks like Korea could use some slow. What they may not know yet is that slow really is faster. The good news? It looks like The Power of Slow is being translated into Korean next.
When you compare productivity to the number of hours worked, you will see that less is more. Holland reached nearly the same productivity rate (as measured by GDP per hours worked) as the United States, but logged 390 fewer hours than their American pals. That’s nearly ten weeks fewer than US workers.
Cultural pressure plays a large role in Korean’s work ethic. They value face time and even if they are literally bidding their time until the boss goes home, they are fearful of taking time off because it might deem them as a disposable worker. It sounds familiar. American workaholism is based on the same premise. Time is money, but we all know that is no longer true.
Time is time. It equals your existence. Time-off can save it, too.