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Paid Vacation? That’s Not Cool. You Know What’s Cool? Paid, Paid Vacation. (fullcontact.com)
388 points by lorangb on July 11, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 308 comments

While I appreciate getting my vacations paid like that, the article shows a bit how Americans vs other continents see the vacations.

Here in Europe the only people I know that dare to have any contact with their company during vacations are usually labeled as workaholic.

We appreciate our 22-30 days vacations, without any contact with the employer while enjoying friends and family.

In Japan you guys wouldnt survive :) You get 10 days vacation a year, and you will be damn lucky if you can take them all since it depends on the willingness of your employer to allow them when you want them. People usually work late and night and often on saturdays depending on the work pressure.

I am not saying whats wrong or right, but I know my friends back in Europe think its crazy to work such a long time.

Yeah, it can be nigh-impossible to get vacation time in Japan. Add to that the loyalty to their employer (I call it stockholm syndrome) and many won't even ask. My girlfriend is lucky if she gets 2-3 weekend days free a month, let alone any vacation days. On top of that it's not unusual to have to leave home before 5 AM only to not get home again until after 8 PM. For 2-3 days in a row. And she's not especially well-paid either. My and her mother keep prodding her to quit, but of course her position in the company is essential and she'd never want to "betray" her employer. No matter what explanation I try, she doesn't understand how it's her employer who's exploiting her...

I think Stockholm syndrome is an apt description of this condition. Maybe it happens because breaking the vicious cycle requires a person stuck in such predicament to acknowledge that their time, and to an extent their person, is a resource in the sad, neo-liberal sense.

Usually people have more heroic visions of their person and possibly this is where the honor and pride narratives stem from, such as "I pulled a 10th all-niter in a row ant helped the company make 0.1% more in profits" or "I can't betray my employer".

Another factor is that with a work schedule like that there is simply no time for a person to look for and apply for other positions, so suddenly quitting is a much harder decision to make without a fallback plan.

It's just generically incredibly difficult to switch jobs mid-career in Japan. The vast majority of hiring is done w.r.t new grads, who are then groomed (read: brainwashed) into drinking the company coolaid.

There are four options I can think of:

1. You are a bonafide superstar and manage to switch into a solid company (my boss when I was in Japan managed to do this).

2. You become a contract worker.

3. You go to a smaller (less prestigious, usually lower pay, less stable) company.

4. You go to a "foreign national" company (European/American companies' Tokyo office)

Exactly, switching jobs is generally not an option.

Sadly for many japanese, they see suicide as an easier out than trying to find a new job. Long hours and no vacation also clearly lead to depression. I'd rather see my gf drop down to a part-time job (baito) than give up completely.

I can never forget my friend/coworker telling me over dinner back in 2010, "I now know what those guys who jump into trains must have felt like."

Does this loyalty work both ways in Japan? Are you more likely to work your whole life at one company, or are layoffs as rife as they are in the US?

This is Japan's "Cool Aid".

The truth is that there are no laws or contracts preventing companies from laying off its workers en masse, yet the individual deludes himself into thinking that there is some concrete social contract exists. The thing is, when the economy was growing at 5% a year, companies could uphold this (ephemeral) social contract by employing people for a lifetime and guaranteeing a great pension.

I personally know CEOs of smaller companies in Japan who vowed to not lay off a single person during the tough times of 2008-2010. The C-suite guys took zero salary for at least 2008, and all other employees took a temporary 30% pay cut. However, this is not the norm. While outright firings may be more rare, things go on underneath the surface. Fulltime employment slots replaced with contract workers in factories, significant amounts of employment moving overseas to SE Asia, etc.

Layoffs aren't as common as the US, but that's actually not necessarily a good thing. Hiring of new grads has gone down significantly (the last graduating class with decent job prospects was the class of 2008), while the older workers (even those who underperform) are kept on board. Like kalleboo says, Japan is about "family". They are kind towards members of their family, and strikingly cold to those who are not. Those who are part of the company are "family", and are protected. New grads who cannot find work are not part of the family, and don't receive the same empathy. Even those who can find work, even at the best and brightest companies, are faced with a situation where their lifetime earnings will be significantly lower than those of the boomers. (on the order of $2.5MM vs $3~4MM lifetime)

There are no good figures about the employment rate of college graduates, but if you discount students who have gone onto become 'part time / contract' workers, the employment rate may be around 60%. (The problem is that all the stats are wildly skewed - for instance, employment rates that include 'underemployed' new grads, or only counting graduates from mid-tier colleges and above) No one really knows how bad the true youth unemployment situation is in Japan.

College students are very risk averse, particularly in the turmoil following the financial crisis. I recall that a poll among college students back in 2011 declared that they wanted to become public workers above all other options (public workers cannot be fired, afaik).

Japan's leaders are very talented at keeping a sinking ship afloat. But they can't avoid the inevitable. Like the country's debt problem, there will come a moment when things catastrophically implode.

Totally agree about the debt problem. Its a ticking bomb and theres a lot of pain ahead in store for Japan's economy.

For many many years it has been. People'd get picked up fresh from college and they'd be part of the companies "family". Nowadays, especially after the financial crisis... not so much. Companies now only hire part-timers so they can fire them at will. Youth unemployment is skyrocketing as in many other countries.

The other problem is the this seems endemic in Japanese culture. I would expect that her next employer might look unfavorably on her 'betraying' her previous employer (though I don't have experience to know for sure).

What next employer? How does one even go about finding a new job while working hours like that? Unless she gets fired, I don't expect she'd even have the time to conduct a job search if she wanted to.

You basically have no choice but to use your "paid vacation" days to conduct a job search.

If you're based in Tokyo, switching jobs is much easier because (a) there are a lot of companies in general there, (b) the culture of the companies are a little more westernized than the rest of the country, and (c) you have the option of going to a foreign national company.

I've also Tokyo seems more westernized in both culture and business, I guess due to offices having a lot of competition from foreign headquarters?

Sadly, my girlfriend lives in Kagoshima, at the ass-end of backwardness. Convincing her parents that I'm not going to murder their daughter is going to be hard enough! (Japanese news media's treatment of foreigners is rivaled only by Fox News I think). As a white, european male, it's been enlightening being at this end of racism.

I do think that's a factor. Also, in general Tokyo has a lot of cultural influence from the west, (having a decent number of foreign professionals there probably helps) and its inhabitants exhibit more western tendencies as a result. I think it's primarily at the individual level, rather than the corporate level though.

Kagoshima is so close to Okinawa, that I imagine there is some cultural undertones that have permeated from the controversies regarding the US Army's isolated (but still brutal) incidences of poor behavior. (iirc they were the subject of the relocation of the Futenma base as well?)

Kyuushuu people are pretty oldschool from what I understand. At least you're caucasian though, you would be truly doomed if you were non-Japanese & non-White. At least they treat you as if you're going to murder their daughter, rather than treating you as an untouchable :(

You only have one life. Why would anyone want to spend the vast majority of it doing work for someone else? The rare case is that they are passionate and care about the work. Anything else, and I just don't understand it.

There are plenty of family and/or medical related reasons to spend a large amount of time doing work for somebody else.

Because you don't doesn't mean it's wrong, stupid, or pointless.

I have a hard time imagining a world where nobody worked for anyone else. Who would drive the garbage truck?

A robot.

Even when you have your own business you are always working for someone else, customers or shareholders are your bosses. Dont fool yourself.

Yeah, I realized I didn't write what I really wanted to say, which was, why would you stay at a job you hate? Or even a job that you barely tolerate? Or a job that you are apathetic about? One life, and most of your time is going to be spent at that job. It should be something you like at the very least.

but is there a genuine tournament-style approach to promotion and rewards.

For example - if she does work like a demon for 10 years, gets the promotions, will she be in tenure, exceptionally well paid etc. If so it may be a rational decision.

Time in and out of the office tiers as well.

When I lived in Japan, I stayed with the head of Korean Air for Japan and with a mid-level engineer at Mazda.

The Mazda engineer left the house at 6 AM and got back at 7 PM or so.

The executive left the house at 10 AM and got back at 5 PM.

When I asked the executive about it, he told me that he had to come late and leave early so his entire staff could leave at a reasonable hour. It cascades - it never looks good if your superior is at work when you're not, so you make sure you get in before him and leave after him. The lower you are, the longer you're at work.

Out of curiosity, do Japanese companies not use multi-shift schedules? A former employer of mine ran three shifts, particularly for hardware testing, and I don't see how such a schedule could work with that sentiment.

Not for white collar jobs AFAIK. The salaryman is expected to come before his boss and go home after - work may extend to drinking after work to build team identity/loyalty.

This company kind of sucks. They dangle the typical japanese seniority pyramid in front of hires, but my girlfriend has been at this for 10 years now and it's not leading anywhere nice.

I'm European and I am certain that this is wrong, unethical, and bad for society as a whole. I'm not surprised that "death from overwork" is an isolated cause of death and has its own term in Japan (Karōshi).

As an employee in Japan I wouldn't want to survive.

>> since it depends on the willingness of your employer to allow them when you want them.

In Japan employers cannot refuse requested holidays unless it would damage the business (for low ranked people with no authority, this is not a problem). It is the peer pressure and subtle bullying in traditional organizations that keeps people from taking holidays.

In theory, yes. But in reality, they can pressure you not to take too long of a vacation, limiting your opportunities to go abroad on vacation, for example.

Yeah, probably not. But why would I want to survive given that case?

I mean... that sounds just about as bad as actual slavery, but with the disadvantage that you still have to make ends meet.

And the other thing I keep hearing about that situation is that it has nothing to do with actually getting the work done, it's just to show that you're committed. And I think committed is the right word because that concept is CRAZY.

Any comparison between a high paid salary employee with a few weeks vacation a year and slavery gets a downvote from me.

  > high paid salary employee with a few weeks vacation
  > a year
I'm not sure that we're reading the same thread. We're talking about how hard it is to get any vacation time in Japan, for any job, from low- to high-paid.

10 days of vacation equates to 2 weeks of vacation time, but from what I understand, working long hours and on the weekends is an implicit requirement of many (most?) jobs in Japan. So even getting the weekend off during that '10 days of vacation' could be problematic.

Sure, it's definitely not slavery, but it sure seems highly exploitative.

The salaryman can quit. A slave couldn't. We often focus on the fact that slaves were unpaid, but that is really the smallest injustice they faced.

Materially, in the US slaves often had higher material 'quality of life' than northern (free) factory workers. They had a better diet, lower pollution, better housing, and more time off. The plantation owners effectively viewed them as an investment. Really, if you want to talk about underpaid and overworked, a more apt comparison would be factory and mine workers in the 18th century.

The horror of slavery was that you had no choice in life. Who cares if you are fed well if someone else can decide to split your family up. Someone can kidnap you, drag you across an ocean (where you have a high chance of dieing) and put you in a country where you can't speak the language. Someone else can decide to move you to a new home. Someone else can decide whether or not you are allowed to read. Someone else can legally beat you.

The Japanese salaryman/women can quit her job if they want to. If they don't, that is their choice, but it is a choice. That is a massive difference. Any comparison between the two really papers over the horror of slavery. Much like any Nazi comparison, it drags the quality of the discussion down.

You missed this part at the end of my post:

  Sure, it's definitely not slavery, but it sure seems
  highly exploitative

  The salaryman can quit. A slave couldn't.
If the problem is endemic to the culture, then quitting one job just to take another offers no real change in situation.

To run with the slave analogy, it would be like a slave being able to choose their master, but all masters beat/rape their slaves.

> The horror of slavery was that you had no choice in life

Your argument is all just semantics. Fine, slaves had no choice, and a large segment of Japanese (and other) society have no meaningful choice. Happy?

Slavery is a concept, anyway. You don't have to pedantically compare every single use of the word to some pet historical incident. I think it's entirely reasonable to compare sections of the working class's lives to slavery, and your attempts to "ban" the whole topic are really misguided and inappropriate, IMO.

And yet for all the supposed strength of the Japanese work-ethic, they've been in their two Lost Decades for basically as long as I've been alive.

Japan doesn't need better employees (the majority of my cowokers were very capable, and some of the hackers I have come to know in the past year are rather incredible), it needs better leaders.

My best guess is that additional work-ethic has diminishing or even negative returns past a certain point. That's certainly what hours-versus-productivity studies show.

I am not saying whats wrong or right, but I know my friends back in Europe think its crazy to work such a long time.

I'm willing to say it. That's wrong.

It is not wrong, it is just what they have come to expect. (Entitlement perhaps?) Do you think the settlers of the new world, for example, were pissed they didn't get their 28 days off a year?

"ahh...that vacation really rested the milk cows. Oh!...my crops are dead :( "

Ethics and morality changes with time. Just because people were happy with something 300 years ago doesn't mean that it's OK to do it now. People used to be happy with lots of things that we now think of as wrong (e.g. slavery, aristocracy ruling the country, women as second class citizens, burning witches, racism, etc.)

Haha. Well said. There are certainly certain circumstances where you cannot be "entitled" to vacation when your life depends on it :)

I think there is nothing wrong about 10 days or 40 days. It is more important how something matches your expectations. If you expect 28 days and get less then that's bad.

As European I really enjoy long vacations and use them for personal development. I guess I could still do that in Japan without long vacations but I guess I would need to do that on time of company.

"I guess I could still do that in Japan without long vacations but I guess I would need to do that on time of company."

So in other words, you'd need more than 10 days of vacation.

I don't think expectations are important at all here. When vacation time is established at national, cultural levels, the expectations of the population will reflect that.

I think in IT you are creative person and you can't create more than you want to. You can be extremely productive but there is upper limit. If you get 10 days and don't get 28 days like European you get that 18 days in some other way.

There are about 15 national holidays in Japan. Also, if you stay at the same company (which most people tend to do if they can) you're entitled to an additional vacation day every year up to 20 days. So a person with a 5-year tenure will have 15 + 15 = 30 days a year.

The question of course is. Did anyone try to just leave at "normal" time?

Not to mention that "15 days paid holidays" would be illegal in EU. 20 is the legal minimum, even for lowly jobs like people who sweep floors.

I don't want to sound like "that guy", but isn't this why there really aren't very many startups/innovations coming out of EU?

That sense of entitlement and cushy job seems to prevent people from taking risks. They'd rather just coast.

As far as startups go, I'd imagine that it's more a function of available capital--and even then I've heard good things about startups out of places like Berlin or London.

As far as innovations go, you should go look at the demoscene and a lot of the goofy but useful JS libraries to come out (say, three.js which I believe is Spanish in origin). So, again, I'm not sure where you get that from.

  That sense of entitlement and cushy job seems to prevent 
  people from taking risks. They'd rather just coast.
As opposed to all the hardworking American office drones that only take ~2 weeks a year? Also, what's this business about a "cushy job"? Wouldn't you want workers to be happier and thus more productive?

Why do you seem to be implying that there is a moral highground to more strenuous and miserable work?

High marginal tax rates in Europe take away the incentive to create a startup, and the governments there confiscate much more of the winnings from successful companies. That, in turn, ensures that there is little venture capital to invest in the next generation of startups.

I strongly disagree. I suspect you are looking at this from the 'American Dream' capitalist point of view. Our tax rates might be higher, but this is more than balanced out by our strong social security and healthcare systems which allow us to take risks a silicon valley startup couldn't dream of.

I can only speak for the UK (and lumping all of Europe together is pretty foolish given that it has a range of countries from borderline 3rd world to international superpowers) but in London the tech scene is very much alive and well. I myself work for a middle aged startup (going through some horrible growing pains just now), I love to get involved in the London tech scene and I've talked with plenty of people doing well from startups.

Strong social security like in Greece? At some point the system isn't going to assist you much when it doesn't exist. Nor will capitalism either, as we'll all be flying kites made of dollar bills inevitably :)

Well Greece's case is a strong social safety net coupled with rampant tax evasion. A better and to pick in my opinion would be Germany. They have a high tax rate and are an export machine as I understand.

Much of Europe has similar effective tax rates as the US. The difference is the US tax rate is taken out in a lot of separate taxes at the SS, Medicare, Income tax (federal) + State income tax, sales tax, property taxes + local sales taxes, property taxes. Plus Debt and a wide range of fines and fees. Where Europe has no EU wide taxes and it's all taken out at the 'state' and local level.

PS: Per person the US government spends as much on healthcare as many countries with 'national' healthcare so we are paying for it even if we don't have universal healthcare.

I don't know what you consider "similar", but the US does have significantly lower effective tax rates (by 10-15%) than most of Europe: http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/09/effective-...

That's simply ignoring state and local government spending. Ed: And possibly Medicare. It's also ignoring the 50% of company matching medicare which is paid by the self employed.


PS: As a sanity check. Federal (24.33 GDP -3.72%GDP given to the sates) State spending is 8.97% of GDP, local 10.69%, which adds up to 40.27% GDP. Note: Actual revenue is only 32.61% GDP because we are just borrowing that much money but debt does get paid back one way or another. http://www.usgovernmentrevenue.com/year_revenue_2012USpn_13p...

the governments there confiscate much more of the winnings from successful companies

What? Citation needed? In some countries they give money to startups, not the other way around.

And how you you explain "high tax rates" when Barack Obama refers to some countries in the EU as a tax haven?

You cannot base a good argument on two data points. I suggest a 3rd point which I believe is a counterexample to your hypothesis:

Israel has more startups per capita than any country in the world, but has socialized working laws. The legal minimum is 10 (I think), the exact amount for engineers varies from company to company, but it's usually at least 15-18 days of paid vacation per year with some of the bigger employers offering 20-30. We also get 3 months maternity leave, several months of unemployment, etc. Not as good as France or Holland, but much better than the US.

I'd say the approach of the US with regards to anything social can work against risk taking. e.g. Healthcare.

It's much easier to take risks when you have a social safety net.

But as a nation you also receive massive amounts of foreign aid, thus have an even larger safety net: someone else is funding a good % of your bills.

At some point that also has to be accounted for when taking into account a country's economic conditions.

So you think only highly prosperous countries can afford vacation days? I believe that among western countries it's more about priorities and who is pulling the strings - if it's the regular folks who have power through their vote or the company owners, who use lobbying firms, campaign donations and control of the media to abort any legislation mandating vacation days, etc.

Western europe has used its economic prosperity to get more vacation days over the years, maternity leave, free education and other social goods. While in the US it seems to work in the exact opposite direction.

The extreme case is France, where they seem to be on constant vacation (>60 days!), get free university education, excellent free healthcare and all the good wine to the great dismay of the Chicago school economists that keep predicting its imminent collapse year after year.

Israel's history is also a counterexample, as it was very poor in its early years (1948 - 1980s) and much more socialistic than it is today. Surely Israel can afford MORE vacation days and other social benefits today than it could 40 years ago. But the trend is exactly the opposite. Unfortunately we have a US educated prime minister.


About the magnitude of US foreign aid to Israel and its role in the economy, here are some numbers:

Total US foreign aid to Israel: about 3$ billion / year. [1] Total israeli budget: about 100$ billion / year. [2]

Even though this is serious money, canceling the US foreign aid would not make a huge dent in Israel's budget. e.g. 3$ billion can be taxed by increasing the VAT from 16% to 18.8%. [3]

In addition to that, as someone who watched how this foreign aid budget is spent in the military, one dollar of foreign aid is worth MUCH LESS than one real dollar. Since goods must be bought from a specific purchasing catalogue, and this catalogue is both limited and has highly inflated prices. e.g. more than 2500$ for a standard IBM desktop PC.

I think this follows partly from the requirement that at least 50% of the manufactured goods must be made in the US. So many products are made in China, then shipped to the US for repackaging (where their price is doubled) and then shipped back to Israel.

Note also that a large part of US foreign aid goes to purchasing very expensive fighter jets (F-15, F-16) and spare parts. A hugely important goal of the Israeli air force is to have more F-16 planes than the egyptians have. But the Egyptians also get their aircraft from US foreign aid. My interpretation of this state of affairs is that main reason congress is backing both sides of this arms race is in order to take taxpayer money and give it to the military-industrial complex.

Sources: [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel%E2%80%93United_States_re... [2] (sorry, hebrew only) http://budget.msh.gov.il/#00,2012,0,1,1,1,0,0,0,0,0,0 [3] http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-4234752,00.html

3% GDP economy boost is a lot.

Update: Sorry, 3% of budget. It's less than 3% of GDP, but still a lot.

3% of the budget, not the GDP! I am not sure it makes too much sense to divide it by the GDP.

Israel's GDP is around 250$ billion. So US foreign aid is around 1.2% of GDP.

However, as I mentioned in the previous post, this aid does not come in the form of actual dollars but in the ability to purchase goods with highly inflated prices and some strings attached. I'm pretty sure Israel would happily trade 3$ billion of US foreign aid with 1$ billion of actual money.

All valid points. Israel is definitely becoming a force of it's own in the tech. sector, and I'm extremely glad to hear of it's flourishing VC ecosystem as well.

re: vacation days & prosperous countries -- no, I don't believe the two go hand in hand (poor folk get all kinds of vacation days in the form of funemployment), nor would I consider the U.S. on average a 'prosperous' nation, I'm merely stating that had the U.S. suddenly had outside funding for it's military for the past ~$x years there'd be far more liquidity to spend on other things like one month vacations for everyone.

0.5% of the US federal budget goes to Israel as aid money. That might skew the figures a bit.

I found that number hard to believe, so I looked it up. In 2007 (the most recent figure I could find) the US sent $2.5 billion to Israel. The total budget was $2800 billion. So it was more like 0.09%.

Huh. My source was the New York Times ( http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/08/opinion/sunday/the-coffin-... ) who stated " all foreign aid accounts for about 1 percent of federal spending — and that includes military assistance and a huge, politically driven check made out to Israel, a wealthy country that is the largest recipient of American aid. True humanitarian aid constitutes roughly half of 1 percent of the federal budget" so I thought it was ½% of US budget went to Israel.

"Federal budget" is a multivalent term. It's more likely that 2.5 billion was .5% of discretionary spending for that year.

When you take the prior obligations of Social Security, etc. the budget gets much smaller.

I think you're misreading the quote. It says foreign aid is 1% of federal spending, only half of that is true humanitarian aid, and the country that receives the most aid, humanitarian and not combined, is Israel.

I'm an EU citizen and have worked (and am working) in several EU based startups. I know I can take a job in one or any of them and not lose my holidays and health care. Big companies don't really offer perks like this here (lots of holidays or health care), so why would I want to work in a cubicle? There's an employee shortage, and mandatory holidays means that a start up is as hard work as a megacorp.

I am so sick of hearing Americans tell the rest of the planet that "not wanting to work yourself to death" equals a "sense of entitlement".

Can we please take this tired, idiotic old meme out back and put a few rounds in it?

I'll get the silencer, lest Middle America hear. :-)

Well there is Spotify. And MySQL. Skype. One can keep going...

The difference between the US & Europe appears to be Silicon Valley, not a sense of entitlement and cushy job.

On the other hand if you join a startup in the EU vs. the US, you're nor forfeiting a health plan, and even if the startup goes bust you have the social welfare system to ensure it doesn't put you on the streets.

So I imagine it hinders people from creating startups, but at the same time it helps hire people into them.

Perhaps. Tell me what you think of this article: http://www.inc.com/magazine/20110201/in-norway-start-ups-say...

I prefer good life over innovations. But that's just me...

It would be great if you could defend your position without using the logical fallacy of the false dilemma.

I think his comment has more insight than you give him credit for. I would say that culturally, Europeans just care a lot less about startups (and business and money making) than Americans. I think that's the biggest reason why they're less common in Europe.

[Qualifier: I am a European now living in North America]

Also, it might explain why youth unemployment is so high in Europe.

Hello from Europe! I think you are vastly under-estimating the startup scene over here... but granted, being quite far from the Valley surely doesn't benefit them; the whole Internet and IT are very much focused on the Valley and NewYork due to historic reasons, if you ask me.

How many public holidays are there in America vs. Europe? Australia is 20 days paid leave + ~10 public holidays off per year. In general people will try to avoid contacting you when you're on holiday; obviously the better you do handing over the less likely anyone is to get in touch with you.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-17654781: Research published last year by Mercer HR suggested there was a statutory minimum of 14 in Spain, 13 in Portugal, 12 in Greece, 11 in France, and nine in Germany and Ireland.

It found US and Australian workers get 10 public holidays, Canadians nine, Chinese 11 and Japanese 15. However, there are regional variations in many of these countries and employment laws differ as to whether workers should be paid for these holidays.

Here in the Netherlands, we actually get extra 'holiday pay' by law too. It makes salary calculations more complicated but it also makes me get a big grin on my face in May :)

In Austria we get 14 Salaries per year. We pay less tax on the 13th and 14th one. I got my 13th just now for July and will get my 14th in December.

We have 25 days of paid vacation. You can work while at home or on vacation, but your co-workers might not appreciate it. Taking leave for doctor visits, weddings, relocations, funerals, etc. does not count towards that.

Also, our stores are closed on Sundays, which encourages spending time with friends and family.

I don't love Austria, but a few things here I find allright.

I'm in Austria too, and as someone who suffered through 15 years of professional working life in California with no more than 4 consecutive days off the whole time (seriously), I can seriously say: thanks, Austria, for the time off. ;)

Lots of other things not to love about Austria (mobthink, Austro-fascism, the horrid city of Vienna, &etc), but the vacation policies are a dream.

Austria is actually on my list of countries to move to. And Vienna was the best place to live for many years in the Mercer survey.

Where do I read more about these things that are wrong with Austria?

I lived on the other side of Austria, in Innsbruck, and only visited Vienna a few times, but I thought it was quite pleasant. Not the most 'happening' place, but it seemed nice.

vienna is a great place - one of my favourite cities in europe (i have never lived there, but have a client there so visit regularly). suspect it's just some weirdness on the part of the original poster.

I live in Vienna, so there's a difference between tourist-view of the place and denizen-view. I don't know if you spent any time anywhere other than the 1st and inner districts, but I respect the fact that everyone has their own opinion. I think its weird to love a city built as a fortress and then as a mass collective to industrial aesthetics, but then again I love big blue sky and buildings with space between them.

Agree with mobthink and Austro-fascism. I would add lack of enthusiasm and closed-mindedness. Don't know what your problem with the city is, though. Even after having lived in Vienna for more than a year I'm still stunned how beautiful it is and how easy it is to meet interesting people.

If you're in a circle of cool people, Vienna is probably one of the nicer capitols to live in. And as a country-bumpkin I find it a lot less mentally taxing than let's say London or Berlin.

Beauty is obviously in the eye of the beholder - I grew up in the wide-open desert of Western Australia, and spent my young adult life in Southern California, so I'm used to having more sky above me than the pitiful strip that most Viennese residents have to put up with in their daily lives.

I'm a huge non-fan of all these buildings glommed together, 5 or 6 stories high, and I find it oppressive, personally.

By my reckoning, Vienna is an Imperial Fortress with working-class box-traps being used as buttresses around the center. I wouldn't call it beautiful by any stretch of the word - oppressively architected inventory of the masses does not a beautiful city make.

But hey, to each their own. If you find it beautiful, more power to you. I can't stand Vienna, personally, and am glad I live outside the city border near Bisamberg ..

I agree with everything you wrote. I recently moved back to Mattersburg because my dad passed away and I took over the house. And I really enjoy living in the open again.

But the things you describe are something that many big cities have in common. It makes me wonder if you've ever been to a city with a somewhat dense population that you enjoyed being in.

I lived in Tokyo for a year. That has similarly oppressive issues too, but there are aspects of Tokyo that are tremendous for the soul. Haven't found much of that in Vienna, yet, after 7 years.

And, 15 years in Los Angeles - well, I love LA. To each his own. ;)

I think our tastes are very much alike. I feel what you're saying about the oppressiveness, and I wouldn't want to live in Vienna for the rest of my life either. I just think it's a bit much to call the city of Vienna horrid, especially when so many people say so many nice things about it in general.

You've actually made me want to check out LA sometime soon.

Really, the only people I've heard say nice things about Vienna have been American tourists who seem to be most impressed of all by the imperial, oppressive, architecture .. but everyone has their taste. Thanks for listing to my rant about my tastes .. ;)

I like Vienna very much - okay, I was there in the 90's and I come from South America, but I've since visited Toronto and many other European and Latin American cities, and Vienna is among the nicest cities I've visited.

Maybe the problem is a cultural fit, or high expectations from California, but not the city hopefully?

Edit: here in Uruguay we have almost 14 salaries as well: 1/2 a salary in June, 1/2 a salary in December, and 20 days paid vacation (almost a full salary)

In my case its the pure physical nature of the city that disturbs me. I find no love for the narrow strip of sky that most denizens have to suffer for their daily sunshine needs, and that strip of sky is a consequence of the composition of the citys' buildings, glommed together at a uniform height, each building providing a bare-minimum amount of shelter to the occupants. These 5 or 6 storey buildings are, in my opinion, an intentionally oppressive act designed to keep the working, industrial classes, introverted and perturbed - and in that sense, they function very well.

Yeah, each their own :) I love narrow streets and high buildings (the older the better, bet skyscrapers are also nice). But yeah it mostly boils down to where one grows up (although I grew up in a small town so I shouldn't lake this ;) )

And I loved Vienna, when I stayed there for few days year ago.

Toronto is a latin city? Do you mean Montreal?

Sorry, I expressed myself wrong. I meant to say I visited Toronto in North America, and other cities in Europe and Latin America (but I haven't been to the U.S. yet as it's the hardest country to visit in terms of visa requirements. Now that I can get one, I don't have time :) ).

Taking leave for doctor visits, weddings, relocations, funerals, etc. does not count towards that.

So what do those days come out of? Here in the US, that comes out of my vacation time.

Also in the US. Doctor visits for me come out of sick leave, a yearly-recycling collection of days that I'm allowed to take out for reasons of sickness. I have a separate set of days for vacation time.

As for funerals in particular, I haven't run in to this situation, so I don't know what I would be doing.

In Germany we have no sick days. If we are sick, we stay home. If we are sick for 3+ days we need a note from the doctor. But this does not affect our vacation time at all.

OK I'll provide a few tips as you're obviously doing it wrong ;)

The vacation days are what you should be using for stuff like doctor's visits and sickness. The sick days are to be kept forever...or an actual vacation. Normally on termination you get reimbursed for sick days. The vacation days are gone however.

In the case of a funeral...that is a vacation!

Hmm... I suppose policies may vary, but in my experience exactly the opposite tends to be true. Sick days and personal days vanish at the end of the year while vacation days generally accumulate (sometimes with a cap, though). It's fairly common for people with separate pools to use "sick" days to just take a day off to recharge or run errands. (Although, technically, employers often have the right to demand a doctor's note, but seldom actually do so.)

That's completely reversed from most of the US.

Vacation is usually paid out, sick time expires. Also, many employers require vacation be scheduled in advance, while sick can be on-demand.

At my work, sick days expire at the end of the year and vacation days are kept for a some amount of time, before they meet a functional cap.

Many companies have a policy for bereavement leave. The amount may depend on your relationship to the deceased. For example, it might be a week for a parent, spouse, or child; 3 days for a grandparent; etc.

I wonder how much innovation or any technology or other development is happening in Austria.

I'm sure it's fantastic to get a 'bonus' every 6 months, but these government mandated '13th/14th paycheck' schemes are really just employer-managed savings plans. Personally, I'd prefer to get my salary as I earn it and decide for myself how and when I spend or save it.

Kinda sounds like the Spinal Tap amps that go up to 11. Why not just get paid a little bit more every month?

I guess it's a result of a hundred years of slowly gained privileges getting added on top of each other, and bureaucratic rules muddling everything up every decade or so.

In Sweden, you accrue vacation pay as you work, and when you take your vacation, it's paid out and because of some law or other, it's larger than your regular monthly paycheck. So in essence you get a little bonus for having your paid vacation, same as a bunch of other countries that people have brought up in this thread.

However, if you're paid by the hour, it works exactly like you suggest. You don't accrue vacation pay or vacation days, and x% of your hourly pay is the included extra vacation pay which you just get straight up.

When you negotiate a monthly salary, the number is without the extra vacation pay, but when you negotiate an hourly salary it's with the extra vacation pay. Because, it's just the way it is. :-)

Well, that's more or less how it works. The vacation bonus of 8% percent of your salary is reserved each month, it's just common to pay out at the start of the summer.

But paying out once a year is the legal minimum, you can agree otherwise. At my previous job, we switched to twice a year at the request of the snowboarders that needed the money for the winter vacation...

Is it "extra", as in on top of the agreed yearly salary?

Norway has a similar thing, in that 10%+ of your salary gets paid out in a lump sum before the summer holidays, and the tax deducted in December is half what it is in the other months. But it's all just an adjustment in how salaries are paid out and when the tax is paid, so you end up with exactly the same total amount.

Of course either way, employers factor it in.

I guess it sort of depends on your employer here in Norway? I get paid 1/12 of my base salary every month except for when vacation pay is paid out, and then we get an extra amount. So in reality I end up getting paid 2.6% above my base pay every year. --That doesn't include additional pay for on-call hours, bonuses, and such.

Its quite common in europe (but not the UK or IE) to get an extra months pay or two as a bonus. 13th Salary and 14th Salary.

Belgium has something like that, I'm not sure it's by law (it might just be working agreements), basically you get a "holiday bonus" once or twice a year, which amounts to about 70% of your (net) salary each time.

France has a slightly different concept (which is not universal by a long shot, but it's almost universal in some work domains) of 13th and (rarely) 14th months. Which are exactly what it says on the tin: you get 1 or 2 extra months of salary per year.

In several countries in Latin America (Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Colombia, Costa Rica, idk about others) you receive an extra monthly salary (a 13th month) by law. In some countries, you receive it all in one payment, in others (Argentina and Colombia I think ) you receive one half in July and the other in December.

You can learn more of this here: http://translate.google.com/translate?source=mog?sl=es&t...

Also, in Argentina, the norm is that you have 15 days of vacation when you start working for a company. After 5 years, you have 21 days, then after 10 years, 28. Finally, after 20 years in the same company, you get 35 days. Most probably, the ones getting 35 days work in banks, state owned companies or public service.

In Brazil you get a 13th month salary and 1/3 extra for vacation (they don't necessarily overlap in time).

Welcome to Sweden, 30 days of paid vacation days and 12% extra salary during your vacation because vacation is always more expensive. As above, no-one would dare to contact someone on vacation here unless it is a complete emergency.

And I really believe everybody thinks he's more important/irrepleacable than he really is.

Right now, my boss and the 3 "senior" analysts are all on vacation... they aren't really missed. Reminds me of the cannibals joke ( http://www.guy-sports.com/months/jokes_silly_puns.htm ).

In Greece after three years of austerity measures we work at least 12 hours every day and if we manage go 10 days for vacations during summer we'd be happy. I guess that is a preview of what's gonna happen at the rest of Europe and US in the years to come.

In Lithuania after 4 years of austerity we work the same 8 hours and have 28 days for vacations. The only thing that was taken from us is holidays that matches with weekends (e.g. Mother day is on Sunday so we don't get free Monday anymore). We were in quite similar situation like you (in Greece) but our politicians did better job in the face of crisis.

Of course you are still richer than us (so maybe you should stop complaining?). BTW how do you feel about Estonia helping you? Overall looking from our side it looks like that a lot of wrong decisions have been made in Greece but you have made good choices recently. I think you will get better in the future. I doubt that something like that will happen in other EU countries.

In Ireland after several years of austerity there are still the same legal holiday entitlements. There were a few months where the minimum wage was cut, but it was restored again. Taxes have increased slightly.

I would be really interested in what you think Lithuania's politicians did right and Greece's did wrong?

It would be very useful to see the diff

At first let's list what's similar:

* Corruption level here and in Greece is quite similar in my opinion. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corruption_Perceptions_Index . I think in recent years we got better but still far from perfect.

* We don't have Euro but we are pegged to Euro (de facto fluctuation 0%). IMHO in this regard we are similar to Greece - while we have freedom to change rate we have not used it.

* Both countries were not prepared for crisis if we compare them to Estonia as example.

In some aspects we were in very similar situation. Now what's different in my opinion: Austerity measures in Lithuania were very strict. We had so called "Reforms night" there our newly elected parliament made a lot of unpopular decisions (e.g. salaries decreased in public sector) and actually some of them of questionable long-term value while good in short-term (e.g. they cut payments for private pension funds what saved money in short-term but I have no idea what will happen in the future). Meanwhile in Greece it was really hard to do anything like that because everything they did was met with big opposition from society. As well little details like very early pension in Greece is not helping either. We had big buffer to go in debt without facing serious problem when borrowing money. Lastly we are still quite poor country and it is barely could be worse than it is sometimes :-) Greece is quite rich country.

Austerity measures in Greece were also very strict. Greece is the only country in the developed world in the last fifty years that managed to lower the deficit by 5% in a single year. Salaries at the public sector have been reduced by 40%.

As for your last statement, we’re a rich country because we didn’t embrace communism as you guys did.

Yes, they were quite strict in Greece as well but they were met with constant labor union strikes. I guess the main reason why we did better we had less to lose.

You are right about communism being the reason why you are rich and we are not but there was no choice for us (foreign army in our territory and we erased from map as independent country) so "embrace" is wrong word.

Officially no, but your social policies (30hr work week, 1 week of paid by country vacations and others that were highlighted in the newspapers when the crisis started) place you even beyond former communist countries :)

Estonia is helping Greece now? Do you have some news source?

The proportion of public money burnt into corruption is much lower in the rest of europe and US. Whatever happens, it might not be great, but it's not likely to be as harsh as in Greece.

Spain doesn’t have corruption as high as in Greece but they’re in deep shit already. Judging a financial crisis with stereotypes isn’t the best approach.

I don’t know if you heard lately about the Barclays scandal. Seems like we don’t have the monopoly of corruption after all. Even the almighty Brits fucked it up big time. Hoorah!

Methinks there's a big difference between private crime and public corruption.

Besides, Britain is not falling apart because of the Barclays scandal, and unlike Greece, it isn't the entire country that is in on the scam.

Yet in Germany, workers have 8 weeks vacation and work 8 hours/day.

I seriously doubt germans have 8 weeks of vacation (I think it's four and wikipedia seems to agree[0]) but maybe I am missing something, would you care to share some url about it ?

Because I am moving to germany if I get to not work for two months.

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_statutory_minimum_emplo...

Rather it is 6 weeks vacations + public holidays. 8 hours a day is a bit low, in IT you'll most probably do around 9 hours, not including lunch break.

Maybe you tell other Greeks to pay taxes again.

Greeks actually pay more taxes, as a percentage of GDP, than Americans do (31% versus 27%). The main differences lie elsewhere, #1 being that the GDP that is taken out of is much lower, due to Greece having mostly a cottage-industry type economy (lots of small family businesses, few megacorps). That in turn has a lot of causes, some cultural, some historical, some due to excessively complex regulations (which have been streamlined in the past 10 years, but not fast enough).

The US is far from the path to debt free either - the difference with Greece is that they can print their own money. The US is trading low taxes against high inflation right now.

Except our inflation isn't particularly high at the moment in the US, we were undershooting our 2% target for a while then the Fed printed a bunch of money (because they can't bring the Fed Rate below the IOR Rate) and now we're on target again.

EDIT: The fact that we could print money to get out of debt if we needed to is a big part of why we don't need to, though.

I enjoy getting 30 days of vacation a year, and it's one of the reasons I have no plans to move back to the US anytime soon. But I know a lot of people who will still spend 30 minutes or so every other day to help keep their inbox under control so they don't have to stress about it when they get back. --There's nothing worse than coming back to 10000+ emails after 2 weeks and having to spend a couple of days making sure you don't miss anything vital (even after setting up rules to help make sure much of the stuff isn't needed.

I heard that a technique at "France Telecom" to manage mail after holidays was quite simple.

1. Delete all mail 2. If it was important, they will contact you again.

I know this technique in many companies I worked for.

Sometimes I think this is how my boss handles all email.

Lol When I worked in international testing for BT I recall when working with my opposite number in FT totally unable to contact them in August.

28 days is the legal requirement in the UK [1].

I'm getting 35.5 total which is reasonably uncommon but not unheard of.

Although paid paid holiday does sound pretty fantastic.

[1] -http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/employment/employees/timeoffandh...

Note that the 28 days of 'time off' includes employee vacation and whichever public holidays the employer chooses to include. There are 8 public holidays in England and Wales, so the number of 'true' vacation days is usually closer to 20. In addition, the law says that the employer can decide when you take that time-off. For many blue- and white-collar jobs, that often includes about a week over Christmas and New Year where factories and offices literally shutdown, which may or may not gel with some people's personal choices.

Being based in Germany I just gave my wife the gist of the article/idea and she was literally shouting 'Hell, yeah' (okay, I translated this one) when I told her about the requirement to disconnect.

I know I could disconnect/drop off the grid in my free time, but I'm addicted. And what's the incentive to do so?

If, on the other hand, someone pays me good money for the promise of staying offline for 2 weeks: That sounds like a sweet deal to me, Europe or not.

Living on Germany, I meet people who can't disconnect all the time. So not sure how advanced we really are. Glad that 30 days of holidays are the rule, though.

> We appreciate our 22-30 days vacations, without any contact with the employer while enjoying friends and family.

Not in any company I've worked for. You're expected to answer emails, phone calls, etc. whilst on holiday. I used to follow along with this but now fight back by simply not taking my phone, laptop, or checking any emails but it's always frowned upon. Then again, it's not like they can sack me for it.

That's the traditional model, at least. I think it's falling apart. At least here in Italy, vacations like that are something that only a certain set of people can afford: those with traditional "Permanent Position" sorts of jobs, which, increasingly, is a smaller and older set of the population.

In the US, workaholic is said as a bad thing, but a lot of of people within corporations expect it.

Here is another European data point (from Germany):

28 days paid vacation + Christmas Eve + New Years Eve + all national holidays (Christmas, Easter... ca. 10).

AFAIK 24 days are the minimum in Germany (cf. §3 BUrlG).

Where I live most bigger employers already give people some additional money for vacations (but nothing like 7500$, more like 200$-300$, so the OP idea is still good :) ).

How it should be.

Somewhat off topic, but the concept of 'unlimited time off' has been brought up in the comments here. I work at a startup that uses this system. It's a great concept and very comforting to know you can have time off when you need it, but it's also somewhat confusing. Since there is no benchmark, I have no idea what is considered 'acceptable' time off. In the year that I've worked for this startup, I've taken maybe two weeks - that includes a week for Christmas, and the rest are just days here and there (like an extended weekend for an anniversary camping trip). Most of these days I'm also connected to a computer, whether it's coding for a bit in the evening or checking mail periodically throughout the day. I'm sure I could take more time off and go on an extended trip, for example, but does this weigh into my employee review? I know it doesn't make sense, but I feel like I'm cheating the company when I take time off, especially as an early employee.

Don't get me wrong - I love the flexibility and freedom, but can somebody familiar weigh in? What is considered 'acceptable' or 'standard' for employees at early stage startups with 'unlimited time off'?

Edit: The company is YC backed and the founders are regular HN readers. Maybe they'll weigh in :) ... or weird vibes at the office tomorrow.

I read something somewhere once that claimed that employees with "unlimited time off" actually take less than the standard US average.

It's nice to say "you can take time off whenever you feel you should", but in reality it's extremely difficult to create a culture where this is actually respected.

I'd actually rather have the policy of "X weeks, but we're not actually looking that hard". That way I don't have to plan things down to the very last day, and rest easy knowing there some give, but also still feel entitled to take what's mine.

What you say is true, and there a lot of reasons why. One of them is that companies that trust their employees enough to have unlimited time off also tend to give their employees substantial ownership of whatever they are working on. They want to make sure their "baby" is being taken care of properly and is looking good as a matter of personal pride. The cultural pressure is not to not take time off but to make sure what you own is as good as possible.

In the case of my company, which also has unlimited time off, there is this same pattern of engineers that do not want to take vacation. Managers encourage (gently force?) people to take time off that are not taking at least a few weeks a year off on their own. The actual range of vacation taken at my company seems to be from about two weeks (that would be me) to about six weeks.

We offer unlimited time off and I, as the CTO, do keep track. But only to make sure folks are taking time off! I push people to GTFO - unplug, etc. I also have a sense during my weekly 1:1s, who is getting a little frazzled. I then encourage them to unplug for a bit. I think it works well.

There's a bit of a meta-meme right now of "No managers!" which is pushback against "Command and Control" - which I whole-heartedly agree with. However, for hard-working "Type A" sorts of programmers, it's easy to get so focused that you don't take care of yourself, even as a responsible adult.

I view my job as a gardener - tending to the care and feeding of folks that work with me. Every now and again a person needs a mental "weeding", and so a vacation is needed. :D

I have a friend who works as an electrical engineer for the Israeli army. He told me that in some ways working for the military is better than working as a civilian, since a boss only cares about the work you, whereas your officer is responsible for you as a person, including your health and well-being.

Cultural pressure is certainly a plausible explanation, but so is the fact that the offering of unlimited time off simply correlates with employees who like their jobs.

Our policy is officially, "Take however much time of you need, we don't want to track it just make sure you get your job done"...

Below that there is an addendum, however, "We expect people will probably take around 5 weeks off per year". This isn't set up as a maximum, rather it is set up as a way to provide that sort've benchmark for people to know whats acceptable. However, no one here is counting... seriously.

Sounds like a terrible idea: your decision on how much time off will be taken as how much you are committed to the company. Better everyone to have X weeks off with flextime.

It seems to me that even when you are not at work you are still having an input which suggests that it might be more than work for you? If that is the case, then take holiday as and when you need it, I'm sure if it starts becoming excessive and there isn't an acceptable reason for it (meeting family in another country or a life changing experience vs. sitting at home watching tv) they will pull you up on it.

Possibly slightly off topic..

I work at a UK startup-going-on-teenager. A few months I had an amazing opportunity to transport a 50m ex-minesweeper from Holland to Turkey, I booked off 3 weeks and came back 2 months later not expecting a job anymore. When I finally did get back, they were actually really forgiving and keen to get me back in to the office; I'm not sure if they need me in order to help support their planned growth, or because they are genuinely very laid back, other factors suggest the first.

First 2 weeks being back were great, but once the novelty and the story telling had worn off and the day to day grind set back in I have experienced a great deal of resentment to the structure of the company; I think that being exposed to a great deal of personal freedom will break down any barriers that have been built and cause issues when you do finally go back.

I've worked at two startups with no vacation policy. My inference is that it is very much a cultural thing. My first company some people really took the opportunity to heart but most were subtly pressured not to take much time off. Plus, lots of people did working vacations. Then at the beginning of September last year they told the entire marketing team that there was no more vacation until the end of the year because the CEO felt marketing was gone too much that summer. In fairness, we had Christmas to NYE off but still. Plus, it made it harder for the sales team where they always had to meet their quota because vacation was never factored in.

In my second company, people take what they need and my boss told me not to contact him unless it was an emergency. I loved it. Set the cultural cue for me on how he perceived vacation time. People seem to take what they need. The CEO encouraged people to take advantage of our ski passes this past season during snow storms.

Bottom line: Management sets the cues and cultural norms. People practice what they see when there aren't official guidelines.

I think those companies need to add a "minimum time off", for example, unlimited days off, but you must take at least 30 days off per year (20 vacation days + 10 public holidays).

Agreed. My girlfriend is currently working at a startup with 'unlimited' time off, and she basically hasn't taken any time off in 4 months. She also has been working 6 or 7 days a week. If she had a specific 3 weeks of vacation to use, I imagine she would have at least taken some days.

It's probably one of those things, like where you get to set your own price on a meal you eat at a restaurant.

IIRC when people try 'price your own meal' they invariably end up taking more money than when they charge the set price as per menu.

It wouldn't surprise me to know that 'unlimited time off' actually means less time is taken, for the simple reason that if you're told '2 weeks' then that's what you work towards, conciously or not.

I worked at a company with 'unlimited' time off, it very much favoured the company. In California you need to hold cash for all employees holiday pay, with a pto system you dont need to worry about that, people took a fairly minimal (by uk standards) amount of holidays, and even then there was the off remark by managers about counting days etc.

There is an argument to be made that no guaranteed vacation days means that companies don't have to pay you for your unused vacation days if you leave or are let go.

I'm in a similar boat, its not "unlimited time off", its "we trust you to take what you need". I personally feel that I do pretty well with this system. I probably take 6-8 weeks off per year, usually no more than 2 weeks at a time. It's generally well planed, especially for the periods that are more than a day or two long. Theres only a couple of other people that take as much time as me, but I've never noticed any ill will towards any of us from either management or coworkers. (I think I take a healthy amount of vacation and that my preformance yhe rest of the time reflects this.)

Also worth mentioning, I'm usually somewhat available during vacations if something comes up - for example, I spent Christmas eve debugging a couple of years ago.

My company switched to unlimited time off recently. It's been a great success and people are definitely taking full advantage of it. What's important is that our company culture is a very "life balance is important" type of culture. This trickles down all the way from the CEO to regular employees. Even the management and VPs take big vacations.

I think this post shows a remarkable difference between American and other work practices.

Here in the UK people get a minimum of 28 days per year off work (including bank holidays). At Mandalorian we do 30 days a year plus 1 extra day per year of service. Most people at Mandalorian don't use all the allowance (mainly because we're results oriented so people routinely check out during the day to drop kids off at school, pick them up etc.), but seem to be comfortable with the fact that they can take time off when they need/want to.

When people go on holiday, they generally disconnect here although some people will take phones etc. I've just come back from 8 days on a remote island in the sea of Marmara with a couple of days in Istanbul and my total contact with work (as the owner) was two text messages and one email on the way to the airport.

I have American friends who tell me that when they go on holiday they have to take their laptops and phones with them, and routinely take calls and do conference calls during their holiday, which sounds insane to me but each culture has it's own nuances.

If this is doing something good for American workers then I'm all for it, but I can't help but think that if I were in their shoes I'd say keep the $7,500 and double the holiday allowance.

EDIT: Thanks to willholley below for pointing out that the minimum entitlement includes bank holidays, as seen here: http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/employment/employees/timeoffandh...

Just for clarity, the minimum 28 days in the UK is inclusive of the 8 bank holidays.

Also worth mentioning that while that's the minimum, for most types of jobs the practice tends to be 25 days + the 8 bank holidays.

The change in the law to increase the minimum to 28 days inclusive of bank holidays was relatively non-controversial as it affected a relatively small proportion of businesses.

We do 30 plus bank holidays, hence my initial misconception. People have to reserve a certain number of days for christmas shutdown, but generally there's enough for people to get a couple of big holidays in and time off around christmas/new year.

There is no legal entitlement for employees to have leave on bank/public holidays. Whether they do depends on their contract of employment.

If an employee's contract says they don't work bank holidays then those days are considered part of that employee's 28 day statutory minimum. If they do work bank holidays, or their contract is silent on the subject, then the employee still has a 28 day allowance but it doesn't include the bank holidays.

Also, some parts of the UK have more than 8 public holidays per year.

Here in America, I had ... 31 days off work last year, and usually travel completely off grid. There exist employers with less generous policies in the US, and there exist workaholic employees, but neither is necessarily the norm.

Yes, this is my sense, too. I have 25+ days of vacation a year, and I take every one of them. My manager has more vacation time, and he takes every last day, generally to very isolated locations. Our CEO is known to go off the grid for weeks at a time.

If I travel for more than two weeks (my family road trips across the country each year), I do take my laptop, but only to work remotely between destinations. By "sneaking" in a few days of work here and there (like when stopping in to visit family), I can extend our trip.

My impression at other companies with less generous vacation policies is that many "rank and file" employees do disconnect during their shorter trips, but management generally doesn't leave the laptop/phone at home.

Less generous is most definitely the norm.

My CTO in BT had worked both in the UK and in SV and he commented that he got exactly the same amount of work out of people in both places.

He commented that in the USA hs staff spent far more time gossiping around the water cooler and taking unofficial long weekends to go skiing etc

And BT has more holiday than the average in the UK - from the civil service days.

While I like this idea, a concept that I would love to see make a comeback is the sabbatical. Don't get me wrong, disconnecting and getting away from it all is valuable, but it also seems like the opposite end of the pendulum swing from always working. Personally, I would like something in between. Give me 6 weeks to work, but work on what I want: no deadlines, no clients, not even necessarily any deliverables. Just 6 weeks to explore...ultimately, I think that would be even more productive in the long run.

I really like the idea of a sabbatical... but I always worried then in my (our) field you'd end up really really far behind / out of touch if you took a 2 month sabbatical.

My impression is that you're overstating the effects of a 2 month sabbatical.

Much like turning off the TV, I suspect that if you do get a 2 month sabbatical, you'll find out that most of the new developments are overstated and that you'll be able to quickly catch up.

Australia/NZ has an interesting concept called Long Service Leave: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_service_leave

<Braces for the piling on by Europeans about how inferior our vacations are>

It's a nice thought, but I'd rather my employer (and my girlfriend's employer) just pay top dollar and let us figure out our own vacation plans.

You're missing the point. I would like it if they just paid me an extra $7500 a year as well. Then I would end up taking a 7-day working vacation. I know it's not good for me, but I do it anyways. I sure as hell wouldn't spend $7500 on vacation (that's over double what I've ever spent for my wife and I).

By forcing me to only get the money if I use it for vacation, I will have a better time, and I will relax more, both of which will improve my stress levels, etc. Also, the fact that they are pushing this into their culture shows that they truly value some sense of work/life balance, which is a big turn on for a company. So many companies say they want work/life balance, then you see that working <60hr weeks is seen as not pulling your weight.

As an employee of FullContact, I very much appreciate that the $7500 is special-purpose fun money. I'd otherwise just squirrel it away and feel bad about spending money on a fun vacation. Everyone else in the office feels the same, and feels valued as a human being not just a ROI.

I'm sure the end goal for FullContact is ROI. Or at least, it should be if they want to stay in business. They are making the bet that true, off-grid vacation each year will help their employees be more productive, efficient, loyal, etc, which certainly is a return on the $7,500 (+ time) investment.

Agreed, and we're aware of it. It's a tradeoff I'm personally willing to make. It's symbiotic and very friendly to us.

Agreed -- the $7500 would be a nice raise, but... it likely would end up in savings or something of the sort, as opposed to really taking the opportunity to take a fantastic vacation that I would likely feel guilty spending my own money. The psychological aspect of spending a budget set by my employer for vacation would make it all the more relaxing.

I also imagine, as $7500 is higher than most people spend on vacation, that it can lead to broader life/world experiences by employees on vacation that hopefully can lead to great new ideas. It never hurts to have employees with wide world views and experiences.

I worked at a company that tried this in 1993.

People hated it. They resented being told how they had to spend their time off. Some just wanted to veg at home or visit family or do any number of other activities. They didn't want to be forced to go some place that the company would spend $7500 on and they felt that those who did go were getting a $7.5k bonus that they weren't

Suppose one company offered you an extra $7500 vacation, and one just offered you an extra $7500. Which company would you work for?

Like I said in my OP, the one who gives it to me for vacation. Otherwise my savings account grows by $7500 and I take a very modest vacation, which is probably worse for me in the long run. Also, I'm not the only one who makes decisions, and I know that if I told my wife we had to spend $7500 on vacation she would be much happier than if I told her I got a $7500 raise that was going in the bank.

There's nothing stopping the company from letting you take a vacation that is not a working vacation. The $7,500 is irrelevant to the conversation.

<Braces for the piling on by Europeans about how inferior our vacations are>

That's partially because us Europeans can't really understand how you can get by with little to no holidays. It'd be like an American talking to a Soviet person (back in the day) and being suprised that they were OK with no voting and secret police.

Believe it or not, your analogy would be much closer the other way around. People from the eastern bloc in general didn't work anywhere near as hard as even in the western Europe, let alone America (the running joke was "We pretend that we work and they pretend that they pay us.")

I remember reading an article by Jerzy Urban (a propaganda minister in the soviet-appointed government in Poland, famous for his vicious defense of socialism) in which he argued that while it's true that people in the western countries have a bit more political freedoms, for an average person that matters very little. An average person spends most of their time at work, where people in capitalist countries have vastly less freedom than in socialist countries (he actually mentioned that in western countries, getting drunk at work is a firing offense, whereas in the People's Republic of Poland it was pretty common practice; I'm not making this up.) Therefore, according to Jerzy Urban, people in the socialist countries in reality had at least as much if not more freedom overall.

This is a fascinating perspective - I never considered 'freedom' in the context of work and its obligations. Thanks.

Well I bitch about my vacation all the time (I get 2 weeks and 13 holidays, which really sucks for someone that likes to travel).

But on the flip side, the European vacation schedule can be destructive. I've worked with an Italian company that was trying to expand their market into the US., and the 6 week summer vacation literally sank any chance of their entrance. They invested millions of dollars, hired a bunch of people in the US (and didn't give the US employees similar vacation to their Italian ones), and were really rolling. In the spring they signed a couple million dollars in deals with distributors. Then July/August rolled around and the parent company went entirely on vacation. You couldn't even get the CEO. Phone calls went unanswered. Orders went unfilled. That literally sank their entrance to the market. A year later, they are effectively done and have lost all of their investment. No one will buy from them.

Imagine trying to compete with an American startup company but taking 6 weeks off completely. What happens during that time? I'm all for individual employees taking vacation to avoid burn out - honestly right now I could go for a week off - but shutting down the entire company for multiple weeks in a row puts you at a huge disadvantage. China, Japan, the US, and the BRICS aren't taking 6 week vacations. I don't care how efficient you are, if your company shuts down while your competitors keep rolling, it is unlikely that you will succeed in any competitive markets.

This sounds like an edge-case, and the solution seems rather simple: implement a policy so that only X% of employees in any department can be on vacation at any given time. Just like employees in retail have to coordinate their shifts (and have to find substitutes if they can't cover their shift), you can have this policy to ensure business continuity.

That helps, but doesn't completely solve the problem. This is actually done by many companies in Germany that I know of.

However, if you set the X% relatively high (e.g. 40%) then you still have the problem that the whole department might not function that well any more during this time.

If you set it very low on the other hand (e.g. 10%) then many people won't be able to take their vacation during the summer months and they will be pissed.

Sure, there's a way to find a middle ground that works out somehow, but still the original problem isn't completely solved.

Is it really the European vacation schedule specifically that's destructive, or is it the mismatch between that schedule and the schedule in "competitive markets"? Or that expectations weren't set or US operations weren't made independent enough?

It's only France and Italy that take August off. The rest of Europe doesn't have traditional "everyone take this month off" things.

Meanwhile, France (along with Germany (with 30 days holidays!)) are bailing out the rest of Europe...

If I want a European-style vacation, I just take unpaid time off; hell, if I take enough of it, I might even drive my salary down to nearly European levels.

Wait until you get sick... you'll understand where the gap in salaries goes.

While I appreciate the fact that no analogy is perfect, I have to make a relatively pedantic objection here.

We're talking about the difference between 2-3 & 5-6 weeks of vacation, not a radically different approach to governance and civil liberties.

There's also at-will employment in the USA (used by Zynga recently to screw employees out stock options), and lack of employee discrimination (AFAIK it's not illegal in US to fire someone for being gay or trans, while it is in EU).

These laws in EU are legal minimum, so they aren't going away. I, as an employee, don't have to worry about a new management team or buy out or poor annual return which results in the company cancelling all paid leave, because the companies in the EU cannot make that sacrifice.

I'm not sure what you are getting at, but it sounds like you are attempting to argue in favor of "your" system over another.

Enumerating relatively minor differences between democratic capitalist countries doesn't make your "Soviet Union" analogy any more appropriate.

However :

>> There's also at-will employment in the USA (used by Zynga recently to screw employees out stock options), and lack of employee discrimination (AFAIK it's not illegal in US to fire someone for being gay or trans, while it is in EU).

As seen in Spain, guaranteed / tenured employment is not all sunshine and roses. Even prior to the most recent economic troubles, younger employees were vastly over-represented among those with short term contracts. Likewise in France.

For reference, sexual identity and gender orientation are protected (or not) at the state level :


I wonder if you are exaggerating to make a point or you actually believe Americans take little to no vacation because the laws don't mandate it.

In finance you get 8 market holidays a year. The federal government has 10. On top of that, most white collar employees get 2 weeks of vacation their first year. After a year or two it's pretty standard to take 3-4.

Just because we live with it doesn't mean we're OK with it.

I like the idea, but I wonder a little bit about the implementation. When you say "disconnect" do you mean from the company? If so then I totally agree. (Granted if I were an employee, I'd probably go somewhere on the beach, swim in the sea during the day and program my own projects in the evening or afternoon for a couple hours when the kids are taking a nap.)

There is no greater joy in life than watching things that you make come to life with your mind and with your hands. It's one thing I love about brewing, cooking, gardening, and programming. That isn't so great when you work for someone else, but one thing vacations can give people with a creative drive is a chance to create their own things.

So I guess one thing I would caution about is that it might be worth pointing out that IP assignment clauses shouldn't reach vacation time either.

Well in Austria (and Germany afaik) we get a vacation bonus pay ("to be able to afford vacation"). Its about one month of regular pay. Additionally, we get another month of pay for christmas ("to be able to afford gifts for the loved ones").

It's often called the "13th and 14th month of pay". Come work in Europe ;-)

Working in Germany.

The companies I've worked for offer neither of these payments, so you're getting 12 salaries. Of course my exposure is limited to tech companies and small one at that, but for me these 13th or 14th salaries are unavailable, that is only present in big corporations or interestingly for non-academic jobs (i.e. metal work shops I know do pay these, so do some construction companies). IT? Nope.

I think that this style of salary is getting less common in Germany. My work in Germany also doesn't offer the 13th or 14th salaries. Someone else mentioned that these extra payments just means that you annual salary gets divided by 13 or 14 rather than 12, so the total annual payment is the same.

It seems that in most of Europe, blue-collar trade unions have traditionally been very strong so have been able to negotiate all kinds of niceties. White-collar, not so much.

The same is true in Spain (in 90% of the jobs). Of course, that means that you'll get less each month to make the same amount at the end of the year, but it is convenient.

I think the key feature of "paid paid vacation" is that the money can only be spent on a vacation, use it or lose it. So you can't save money by not going on vacation.

Does austrian vacation bonus pay have to be spent on a vacation?

It sounds like you can spend it, or save it, however you like, but you have to use the vacation days

The same thing is common here in The Netherlands. Also, 20 days of paid holidays (excluding weekends) are mandatory, although some employers offer more. IIRC I have ~37 days of paid leave (excluding weekends), but I am not exactly sure since I never completely use it :). We also get extra days off for e.g. moving or marrying. Most of my colleagues completely disconnect during holidays (no work-related e-mail, phone calls, etc.).

I think the idea of restricting the spending of holiday money to holidays only is difficult to execute in most organisations.

I am not totally sure if this is true or not, but somebody from the Netherlands was telling me you can roll over your paid holiday allocation year on year?

In France, Germany and Denmark (where I have been employed) you can do this for something like 10 to 20 days (usually 10 days). But sometimes, you can do this but some of them need to be taken within 3 months of the next "holiday" year (the holiday year starts usually 1st of April).

It means for example, that with the about 11 holidays + WE + 30 paid holidays + 10 days from the year before, you can get a year with 51 days "unconnected".

I don't know what the general rule is here. My employer allows my to save a certain number of vacation hours for the next year. However, these leftovers can only be used the next year. In other words, you cannot save hours multiple years, and then take a year of ;).

Only a limited number of days. Currently, 6 days, I think.

In Netherlands they hold back part of your salary each month then give it to you in one big chunk for Holiday each June (or maybe each June and December).

but thats shrinking. more often you'll see the 13th split up 50% for june and 50% for december.

The "disconnect" rule is an excellent policy for several reasons. In addition to the ones outlined in the post - there is the concept of seeing your own work with "Fresh Eyes". I truly wish I could do this once very six months at least.

I was shocked last year when I came back from a couple of weeks abroad to discover that the very first Architectural decision we had made on a project seemed blatantly off. Turns out it was - no one had considered questioning an implicit assumption - no one (especially me whose job it was) had even caught the assumption. Saved us at least 3 iterations when we fixed it.

Another good reason is that it ensures the company can function without an individual for a week or two. This will encourage key people to document their work and share information so the company doesn't suffer when they drop off the grid.

I don't know about other European countries, but at least in Germany that's already a very real thing and has been for decades.

See http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urlaubsgeld (use google/chrome translation).

Not everyone gets it, it usually depends on your (or your union's) salary negotiations with the employers.

While the Vacation Money is typically paid in June for the summer vacation, many companies also offer another an extra salary (or only a certain percentage of your regular monthly salary) in December for your christmas expenses.

I like the concept, but $7,500 is an outlandish amount of money for a vacation. It also represents 5-10% of total compensation for an engineer. Plenty of people take 6 month vacations for that kind of money.

Since you apparently get the full $7500 regardless of how much your vacation costs, what he's effectively doing is docking everyone's pay $7500 if they don't take at least one fully disconnected vacation a year.

> "what he's effectively doing is docking everyone's pay $7500 if they don't take at least one fully disconnected vacation a year"

That's only true if their base salary/bonuses are $7500 below market, which I doubt is the case.

Almost everyone's salary / bonus is exactly market, because it was by definition set by the employment market. It was market when before the $7500, and market afterwards.

I'm not being pedantic and missing the point that you mean 'market average', because employment is not commodity purchase - so market average isn't meaningful unless you're painting with very, very broad strokes.

That is not so bad, I didn't read clearly enough and was under the impression it was for actual expenses. This just means all existing employees get a $7500 raise, and are now forced to take a disconnected vacation. Future employees will just treat it as part of the compensation package.

No, it's not.

If you're planning on flying somewhere not near by (ie: going to another continent, far away islands, etc), plane tickets alone could cost $1k to $2k. 1 or 2 weeks in nice hotel / condo will be another $1k to $2k. Eating, activities, rental car quickly spend yet another $2k to $3k over 2 weeks.

It's pre-taxes. And an extended trip to Europe (8 cities, 2 countries, round-trip airfare from the US) just cost my girlfriend and me about $6000.

Six months? May I ask where you're from?

I've worked in places that gave particular allowances for certain things and while I appreciate the gesture my view tends to be just give me cash and let me work out what to do with it.

There are some exceptions to this (pensions mainly) but I don't think it's for a company to say how someone should spend their time off or their money and effectively penalise them if it's not in the prescribed manner.

Yes holidays are good for relieving stress but so is paying down a mortgage or paying of debt for instance. What is best for the individual is probably best decided by the individual.

I think the money is meant as an incentive for employees to stay healthy. Like handing out free fruits or gym memberships. So just giving the employees the money and let them decide what to do with it would be counterproductive.

Although maybe there should be some research. If more pay automatically makes people go to the gym more often, maybe it would be ok...

I guess I don't see a necessary connection between taking a trip somewhere and health. I do see the advantages of disconnecting from work/email for 30 days. But why do I have to fly to Hawaii or Europe or something to do that? Can't I take 30 days off to putter around my house, reconnect with friends/family in the area I haven't seen enough recently, read a few books, participate more in local cultural activities I neglect due to being too busy, etc.? To me, the most relaxing vacation is taking time for myself in my hometown, with people I know.

I find vacations sometimes interesting and educational (see other societies, etc.), but not generally relaxing. To me, packing, flying places, and living in hotels is a bit stressful. To some extent, it actually makes me feel more busy, because it's one more thing, along with work, that gets in the way of me spending more time on the local stuff I'd like to spend more time on.

The article does mention staying at home and watching TV

What if you have a situation where someone has debts. Is their mental health (which is what you're talking about with a holiday rather than physical health) more significantly improved by paying down their credit card by $7500 than a holiday?

Or someone who wants to spend their holiday time with an old or terminally ill relative (which was my situation a few years back)?

Or what if someone just enjoys taking time off to do something entirely different but at home - say DIY or some other hobby? Why should they be penalised because their idea of a holiday is different?

Well that is what I mean by research - perhaps simply giving people more money will make them happier than giving incentives for specific stuff. But the original idea for the company is to benefit indirectly from the payments (fitter, happier employees), so I assumed the additional payments should be justified like that. Of course it could also lead to resentment: "if you can afford to pay me x$ for gym and holidays, why can't you afford to pay me a higher salary". Who knows?

Actually happiness research seems to indicate that spending money on experiences rather than stuff (for example) is a good idea. But I am not sure if it follows that it still works if you make people spend on experiences instead of stuff.

From the article: "For others, it might be hanging on the couch, eating Taco Bell and watching bad cable all week."

It doesn't sound like FullContact requires you to use the money in any particular way, they just won't give it to you unless you take a "vacation" (where vacation may be staying at home working on your hobby).

If it was a bonus paid on taking all your vacation in a year I'd be more in favour of that but it seems overkill. Really, just stop letting people into the office if they won't take it...

They are just handing over the cash, I think. The only "condition" of the deal is that people aren't working, though I think Rule #1 (You MUST go on vacation!) is a bit vague. There's a slide later on that explicitly mentions the possibility of lousing around on the couch instead of doing anything special, so I don't think they literally mean that you have to go on vacation, just that you have to take the time off and not be at work.

More like "Here's $7500 for not showing up to work for the next week," not "Here's $7500 that you can only use on a preselected and approved subset of suitably frivolous and relaxing activities". I'd be very against the latter, too.

Omg, did you read this article at all? Point is NOT about extra money.

Point is about eliminating single point of failure situations, e.g. only one guy knows how to handle really important client..

That should never happen, and by paying an extra buck, and forcing you to be detached from work they are giving you incentive to build fallback measures, write better docs etc.

That's one way to spend the investor's money... ;-)

Or at the opposite to get a better return on it. If working more produced automatically more income, Japan would be magnitude richer than Europe. Food for thoughts: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(PPP)_...

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