Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Time off, Finnish style

In Finland and most of Europe, people know what it means to really take time off.  Time spent away from the office relaxing with family and friends is highly regarded in Finland.   With summer vacations approaching soon, people are starting to get excited about their longest stretch of time without work.  In Finland, since the summers are precious and short, most people take off several weeks in July.  I don't just mean 1 or 2 weeks off, but 3, 4 or even 5 weeks in a row.  Finns know what it means to truly relax from the stresses of the workplace and recharge their batteries.  Some spend 2 weeks traveling, then 1 week relaxing at a summer cottage, then an additional week just to recover from their vacation.  The goal is to totally decompress and get work out of the mind and the system.  Having worked in the US for most of my career, I recall struggling just to reserve 2 or 2 1/2 weeks off without interrupting the work schedules.  If I wanted to take off more than 2 weeks in a row, I needed upper management to sign off on my vacation request.  US bosses always say to take your vacations, but when it comes down to it, they care more concerned about keeping the business running like a well oiled machine.  In Finland, almost all businesses completely shut down during the month of July, so managers are not running around with decreased staff trying to keep the business at full speed, but they actually relax and take the time off themselves.  It makes sense since the summers are short and precious, people should not be wasting them in the office.

Most US companies start with 2 weeks of vacation and increase to 3 or even 4 weeks when employees reach a certain level of seniority.  In Finland, most companies start with 5 weeks, however many other Holidays and  extra days off can taken during the year.   I was lucky enough to have 4 weeks of vacation in my last US company, however that was kind of exceptional. Good luck if I was ever going to get off 4 weeks off in a row.  I normally took off 2 weeks during the summer and spread the other vacation days around throughout the year.  It will be nice talking off long stretches during the summer now and feeling guilt free about it.  I am truly looking forward to vacations, Finnish style.

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree! And in general Finnish employers really care about "mental" health of their employees, i.e. if you have problems in the family and it affects your mood, more likely that they will advice you to stay home for few days than force you to work no matter what :)