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How Luxembourg Became The World's Most Productive Country

This January, Curiosity is digging into the science of productivity. Start your 2017 on the right foot with our full series on scientifically proven ways to do more, faster.

Want to earn more while working less? It might be time to pack your bags. According to 2015 data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Luxembourg is the most productive country in the world, with an average work week of only 29 hours and a GPD per hour worked of 93.40.

Related: For Better Productivity, Work In 90-Minute Spurts

The 40-Hour Workweek Is Overrated

For years, economists have largely agreed that longer work hours don't equate to greater productivity. This idea has been supported again and again, including in a 2014 Stanford University paper which found that employees who work long hours "may experience fatigue or stress that not only reduces his or her productivity but also increases the probability of errors, accidents, and sickness that impose costs on the employer." In 2015, a YouGov poll revealed that the ideal work day is seven hours. And starting in January 2017, the French started enforcing the legal "right to disconnect" to protect their private time. The BBC elaborates that France has had a 35-hour work week since 2000, and this new law dictates that "companies with more than 50 workers will be obliged to draw up a charter of good conduct, setting out the hours when staff are not supposed to send or answer emails." This movement to shorter work weeks has us wondering—is it a coincidence that the four European countries ranked by the OECD as more productive than the U.S. (Luxembourg, Ireland, Norway, Belgium) also work fewer hours?

Related: Media Multitasking Is Hurting Your Productivity

What Makes Luxembourg #1?

Let's explore what makes Luxembourg so productive. First and foremost, this tiny central European state believes in preserving their employees' work-life balance. The Luxembourg Declaration on Workplace Health Promotion in the European Union declares a focus on the "combined efforts of employers, employees and society to improve the health and well-being of people at work." The OECD echoes this claim, pinning the country's productivity on their "ability to successfully combine work, family commitments and personal life." Luxembourg largely allows workers to re-organize their work hours to make time for outside commitments and interests. All employees have a minimum of five weeks paid time off, and workers must be compensated for overtime. In addition to shortened, flexible work weeks, most industries in Luxembourg don't allow work on Sundays.

Related: Improve Your Work Performance By Taking A Nap

If you need a more convincing case against long work weeks, let's look at the least productive country on OECD's list (#38): Mexico. Compared to Luxembourg's 29-hour average work week, Mexico has the world's longest average work week at 41 hours. (You can see the full chart here.) So if you'd like to run a productive business, make sure your employees have a successful work-life balance first.

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