Can working LESS yield HIGHER productivity? Oui, perhaps.

"Cheers to the French for figuring out how to work less and still come out on top!"

“Cheers to the French for figuring out how to work less and still come out on top!”

Monday was my first day back in the office after a ten day vacation in France. We spent the weekend and Monday in Dordogne. We knew the region was rural and it might be slim pickings for dinner options and souvenir shopping, but we were completely baffled by the fact that no businesses seemed to be open – EVER.

Later, in Paris, a very special scarf caught my eye in the window of a shop near the apartment we had rented. But the shop was closed – at 10:30 a.m. on a Wednesday. I kept a keen eye on the shop for the rest of the week—plotting my victorious return to the states with the world’s most beautiful scarf. But every time we walked past the shop, it was closed. It was either too early in the day, too late at night, or conveniently some time during the traditional two hour lunch breaks that the French are notorious for.

The lack of opportunities to throw away my hard-earned-dollar-turned-€uro was beginning to tick me off. When we were in Dordogne, it was literally an issue of survival. If you can’t buy a baguette, then how is your ignorant American @$$ going to eat?!?!?

The whole experience left me wondering just when the French people actually DO work!

So I did a little research into the standard French work week when I got home. A little Googling quickly revealed that the French:

  • MUST take 5 weeks of vacation per year;
  • work a 35-hour week;
  • are not ALLOWED to work overtime; and
  • typically take a leisurely two-hour lunch break.

Remind me why I came home again?

While I pondered adopting this new better way of life upon our return to the states, my partner quickly pointed out that the French economy just recently slid back into its third consecutive recession since 2007.  I won’t ignore that our economic systems and governments are completely different, thus setting the stage to allow for such remarkable differences in our work-styles – but I can’t help wonder what the happy medium might be between these distinct approaches to work.

Because the fact remains that the French GDP ranks 5th in the world (teetering neck and neck with the UK for the spot). Why? Because when the French people actually ARE at work, they are HIGHLY productive.

It seems the secret to productivity lies, at least in part, in spending LESS time at work!

It about killed me, but I forced myself not to grab lunch and bring it back to my desk yesterday. Instead, I holed up at my favorite lunch spot and played Candy Crush Saga on my iPhone for thirty minutes. Hey, it’s a start! Maybe some day I’ll get to that enviable 35-hour week. In the meantime, I’ll try to commit to more leisurely lunches.

So, take a break today. And if your boss gives you crap about it, tell them you’re just trying to boost your productivity.