How The Average American Work Week Compares To The Rest Of The World

Hate to break it to you, but more hours doesn’t mean more productivity.


Americans stay chained to their desks and smartphones for long hours, and many view a 40-hour workweek as “slacking.” But are we really getting more quality work done? Not necessarily, according to research from PGi.


Korea clocked the most hours–nearly 2,700 annually–while Denmark worked the least at less than 1,500, followed by Sweden, which only logged around 1,550. Sweden’s experiments with shorter workdays, set to begin earlier this month, defy the overworking standard we experience in the U.S. They support of the notion that more work doesn’t always equal more productivity.

Germans are the real masters of productivity, based on hours worked in relation to GDP. South Korea and Mexico fare the worst, with the U.S. coming in a not-too-shabby third.

Click to enlarge

Want to work a shorter week–and be healthier and happier for it? You’ll have to move to the Netherlands, Denmark or Norway, where they’re working a leisurely 29-33 hours per week.

You might not be able to change your boss’s philosophy on hard work (or move to Demark), but you can make the work week more productive, here’s how:

Have a plan.

One of the surest way to avoid redoing what you’ve built is to plan ahead. Says PGi: “Creating a strategy at the forefront will make execution more efficient, thus boosting productivity and, ultimately, the overall success of the project.” Starting the week with a plan keeps the rest of your tasks in focus.

Prioritize and streamline your time.

We’ve all looked at the clock at 4 p.m. and thought, “Where did the day go?” Do the hardest work first, before unexpected tasks trip them up.


Make fewer decisions.

Time’s flying by faster and faster, as we’re working longer hours and getting less done. Make as many decisions as possible into automatic habits–freeing up valuable time and mind-space for creative work and flow-state.


Forty-hour weeks might be a matter of unavoidable policy, but you have options for working a rewarding side-hustle in, after-hours. Turn your commute into cash, become a tutor, or freelance your abilities–see more suggestions from Lolly Daskal, here.

About the author

Freelance tech, science and culture writer. Find Sam on the Internet: @samleecole.