The American workaholic has become something of a cliché.
Long hours with few breaks, “sad desk lunches” and unused vacation time are hallmarks of the US work experience. And while US-based organizations desperately seek solutions that will improve the employee experience, create a better work-life balance and stand out as a “best place to work,” they may only need to look to their neighbors across the pond for fresh ideas.
The UK is well-known for a “work hard, play hard” mentality, holding fast to traditions and a strong dedication to paid holiday time — all of which benefits the UK workforce in numerous ways.
Here are three UK workplace trends US companies should consider adopting to improve workforce health and happiness.
3 UK Workplace Trends to Adopt
Flexible Schedules and Fewer Hours
More US companies are offering flexible hours, something the UK has done for a long time. Not surprisingly, millennials are leading the way. About 73 percent of full-time employees ages 18-34 in the UK say they have a flexible work schedule, according to data from Timewise.
But it’s not just flexible time that counts—it’s less time. Instead of checking emails throughout the evening and tackling work before bed, UK seem to be better about leaving work at work.
"People in London—at least at the Business Insider offices—come in at 10:30 a.m. and go to the pub at 4:30 p.m.,” says Erin Brodwin, a science correspondent who has worked in Business Insider's New York, London, and San Francisco offices. “You could hear a pin drop at 5 p.m."
More Vacation Time
Almost all workers in the UK are legally entitled to more than five weeks of paid vacation time per year and, in a survey of 22 countries by YouGov, UK workers were most likely to take all of their paid leave.
The United States, on the other hand, has no federally mandated paid time off. On average, after one year of employment, American workers in private industries earn an average or 10 days of paid vacation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And more than half of American workers don’t use all their vacation days, according to a study from the US Travel Association.
There’s no doubt time off helps reduce stress and promote better well-being. Offering more vacation time—and encouraging employees to take their allotted PTO—can help employees stave off burnout and be more productive.
A study by the San Francisco Federal Reserve found older workers are more likely to be ruled out for jobs, even though age discrimination is illegal under US civil rights laws. In addition to avoiding legal issues, considering and hiring older applicants is often in a company’s best interest as they often bring more industry experience and can help fill skills gaps. Not to mention, with the largest generation also being the oldest, hiring older workers is in the best interest of the economy, too.
To help employees stay in the workforce longer and support later-in-life career changes, many UK-based organizations like Boots and Barclays are introducing “silver quotas.” By adopting this practice, US companies can help ensure older Americans can financially support themselves.
Improving the Employee Experience In the US
While the US is making progress by offering more flexibility, remote work opportunities and activity-based workplace design, there are still plenty of opportunities to create a better employee experience.
Research has shown companies that prioritize the employee experience are four times as profitable on average as those that don’t. They also have less employee turnover, which contributes to greater success over time.
Workplace leaders should focus on three main factors as they think about how to improve the employee experience: the physical work environment, workplace technology and culture.
These three UK workplace trends primarily address culture, which is most often influenced by HR policies and procedures. However, HR shouldn’t “own” your company culture. A strong company culture starts at the top, with your executive team committing to hiring people who share your company’s core values and inspiring employee engagement.
By integrating these UK workplace trends into your organization, you’ll be better positioned to attract and retain the talent you need to stay ahead of competitors well into the future.