In many countries, it is time to get back to work / school after the summer break. Depending on where you live, this break will have been of varying lengths.
What shall we do with the kids?
Well, did you have a good holiday? Refreshed and ready to get back to work? Depending on where you are, this break will have been of a different length. French school children officially get a full two months break. The same goes for children in the United States. Spanish children broke up this year on June 20th and won’t have to pick up their pencil cases until September 12th. British kids are not quite so lucky; only six weeks for them. Unlike their continental counterparts, this will have been unlikely to have seen too much sun either!
All of this free time does not mean however, that they will be spending their time at home. Parents can be quite entrepreneurial at this time of the year. Faced with the prospect of having to watch endless hours of cartoons and find activities that last no more than 20 minutes each, many Western parents discover that summer camps and day care centres can be surprisingly beneficial for the “intellectual development” and the “sociability skills” of their children. Failing that there are always with the grandparents.
“You have such a great time there! And Grandma and Granddad are so looking forward to seeing you”
Sometimes this can involve negotiating skills of which Ury and Fisher would be proud. Business skills developed throughout the year can be sorely needed at this time.
Annual leave in different countries
Parents might be forgiven for such ingenuity since clearly their annual leave is nowhere near as generous as that given to the prodigies. According to a survey by Mercer, the number of annual public holidays is not in line with popular myth. Japan has 6 more public holidays than France, Germany or the USA. Even China has one more public holiday than these 3 countries.
However, when annual leave is calculated the French get back their rightful place with 40 days of vacation. China has caught up to some extent over the past few years and now has only 4 days less vacation than the USA. Perhaps surprisingly though, the Japanese, with their reputation for always being at work have 36 days annual leave. This is as much as their British counterparts and far more than the USA and China.
Technology changing our vacation
Of course, with technology developments the number of days is increasingly becoming hypothetical. In accordance with French law, most pay slips state the number of hours that a person should work per week. This is fine for some jobs, but if you are a knowledge worker of some sort it becomes faintly ludicrous. Should you stop thinking after 40 hours per week?
Emails, blackberries, iPads etc. are also having a major impact on the way we work. According to a Regus poll of 5,000 U.S. workers 50% of Americans work during the summer vacation with 66% checking and responding to emails. It is far from uncommon to see people answering emails while lying on the beach.
Given the fact that most people do not rigorously separate private emails from corporate ones, this is increasingly hard to resist. In this context, the famous work-life balance is becoming more and more difficult to measure.
Students: vacation or work experience?
Students too have taken to working during the vacation period. INSEE, the French National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies reports that 20% of students worked during their studies between 2004 & 2006 compared to only 12.6% in 1992. Half of the jobs were untaken in relationship to the studies the students were undertaking. This seems quite low.
My own survey on French management students showed that 80% of them were working over the summer. Given that this is a compulsory part of their curricula, this is perhaps not surprising. In the UK, it is estimated that about half of the student population now work during the summer. Given the recent increase in fees, this is not surprising. However, the most diligent students of all have to be the Taiwanese. 95% of them work over the summer.
Back to work, if you ever left it!
Whatever you were doing over the summer, it is always a little difficult to get back to work. The first days can be really slow. So, just to get you back into the swing, have a listen to the wonderful Eddie Cochran whose wonderful career was far too short. Like many of you, his “blues” came from “Working all summer just to try to raise a dollar.”
And on a final note, you may also be interested to know that in Ancient Rome 159 public holidays were decreed by the Emperor. Sounds great, doesn’t it, but what would you do with the kids?!
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