Why France’s “Work to Live” Mindset is the Right One

Try to poke fun at them but don’t be surprised to get an “Out of Office” message in reply

Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash
  • They never work more than 35 hours in a week
  • They take coffee breaks every 15 minutes at work, for at least 30 minutes at a time

Four weeks vacation… only?

Finding myself surrounded by Franco slackers, I decided to take advantage and begin poking around to see if there was any truth to the lazy faire (translation: a play on the word laissé faire — which the French love).

The French Response

The revelation of what has changed begins to take form less than twenty-four hours later, as I’m breaking French bread with a Parisian client over lunch.

“It’s just like August in the office,” she offhandedly remarked. “Nobody’s around and it’s impossible to get anything done.”

“Excuse-moi?” Marveling that she can refer to an entire month to visually represent an empty office, I inquired further.

“In rare cases, people can negotiate a carry-over,” she explained. “Most people, however, just have to use it up.”

Fortunately, using PTO for the French is as popular a national pastime as not taking PTO in the States.

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“It’s true,” she confirmed. “Many people have more than five weeks. I have a good friend for example that accumulates an additional two days per month.”

Doing the math quickly, that comes out to about 10 weeks of PTO per year.

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This means that my best friend, with his MBA and C-level office accommodations, is guaranteed 30 times less paid vacation than the entry-level cashier at my village boulangerie in France.

It’s nuts, but true.

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