On the standard terms, Japanese have 10 days of paid holidays. For the Europeans usually this number is shocking! At the end, Europe has the longest working holidays in the world (with few exceptions of course). France 31 paid holidays, Spain 34 and the number one Germany and Austria with 35 days of annual leave! But to make Japan looks a little bit better, of course there is also a number of national and bank holidays. And that is around 21 days.
Nevertheless, I already spoke a bit about how different the Japanese culture is, and the approach towards holidays makes no difference. And to understand Japanese well, you need to understand how they live, and why they live in such way.
But to those who are unfamiliar, let me give you some brief reminder. Japanese culture is based on long term commitment towards almost everything. This is why most probably you have already heard about life time employment that is still widely practiced in Japan. This could be translated that the employer will take care for his employee till the rest of his life securing his work and salary, and in the return, the employee will give him loyalty and strong commitment. One could say, that so far, it sounds like a good and a fair deal. Right? But as always, here also a devil is in the details. The trick is in the “strong commitment”.
Most of the Japanese will take half of given holidays or even less! And usually those would be not a consecutive days. Why is it so? Taking all assigned holidays tells that you are not committed to your company and to your colleges and your boss. Because if you are taking rest, the others must work. And in the collective socialites like Japan, you do not stand out. All for one, one for all. And I must say it is praiseworthy (to some extend). On the other hand, I have the feeling like commitment and loyalty are slowly dying in the world, but perhaps that is just my subjective observation. Nevertheless, such approach leads to quite an unhealthy situation. It is a little bit like with overworking hours – I cannot leave before my boss as I do not want to show the lack of commitment, and the boss cannot leave before me, because he also does not want to show his subordinates lack of hard work and commitment.
In 2013 the Japanese Labour Ministry has conducted a research which shows, that many people are actually feared to take the holidays (!). The biggest concern was that they might be ostracised by the colleges. And do not forget, as written above, Japan is a collective society. They do care what the others will think about them.
The Japanese government has already recognised the problem and is taking some actions to change that. One of the ideas is to forbid taking less than 5 days off. Of course that has created a huge discussion in Japan. However I do not want to talk about that. Instead, I would like to reverse the situation and discuss, why taking days off is beneficial for both the employees and companies and how can we do it.
Here are 3 points, WHY taking holidays is so important:
- When you are rested, you are more productive
- Going for a holidays makes you more creative
- Getting rest improves your memory
But I bet many of us actually know WHY. And I am very confident, that you could come up with much more reasons WHY. But even if we recognize the importance of the situation, most of the time we are sinking in action. There are always important projects to cover, urgent meetings to attend, big deals to close, quotas to meet. But the truth is, there is always the way!
So here are a few tips HOW to do it right!
- Learn how to DELEGATE your responsibilities. If you will look closely, there are actually many things that could be done by others. Teach your colleges and trust them. This will also help you increase team morality.
- PLAN your holidays in advance and inform everybody around that for a given period of time you will be away. If your surroundings will know that you will be away, that can get ready and everyone will feel safe and supportive.
- DESIGN your holidays! Try no only to plan your holidays but design them as it would be an art piece! Try to do it as good as you would plan a 100 million dollar project for your best customer! (And do not forget about customer satisfaction at the end ;))
- THINK why you are doing this! Are you doing this for your family? Are you doing this for your work performance? Or Are you doing this for yourself. This is the time to ask the questions WIFM (What’s in it for me). And think if everyone will benefit more from you if you are rested and positive or tired and burn out? At the end of the day, this is your choice! Do it well!
What do you think about taking holidays? How does it work in other countries? Please share your experience here.