Venturing overseas is always an attractive option for businesses that are thriving in their home countries: it poses the possibility of increased profitability, a new customer base, and diversification too.
But, despite hours of market research and a plenty of sleepless nights given over to logistical arrangements, there’s one thing you’ll never truly understand until you’ve made the move: the new work culture.
If you’re planning on making a move to America, here’s a taster of what you can expect from the US work culture.
An ‘always on’ approach
There’s no doubt about it: Americans work long hours– more than anyone else in the industrialised world.
As a result, you’ll find that many American workers are prepared to (or at least expect to) work more than a standard 37.5-hour week.
This could be great news for a business that’s expanding into America, but it’s certainly very different to what you might be used to.
When coupled with the statistics on vacation leave and sick leave (discussed in more depth below), it paints a picture of a work culture that’s far more demanding than the work-life balance observed across most of Europe.
Ambition to climb the career ladder
American work culture is also very ambitious. Fuelled by the quest for the ‘American dream’, and a lack of legislation requiring businesses to formally hire their workers using employment contracts (instead, many Americans perform their roles ‘at will’, which means they can largely come and go without the requirement for formal notice periods),
Americans know that the only way to get ahead and keep their positions is to impress.
This tends to lead to a very positive can-do attitude – another major feature of US work culture – with the most successful office workers doing whatever it takes to climb the career ladder.
Of course, these are generalizations, but you’re certainly likely to observe a very ambitious attitude from workers in thriving US cities.
A reluctance to take vacation and sick leave
US workers are renowned for taking a very little vacation, and that’s because there’s no legislation that states they’re entitled to any.
As a result, approximately 50% of US workers did not take all their paid vacation leave (earned as part of their benefits package) last year for fear of being replaced.
And, the US work culture centers around not taking sick leave, either. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires companies with more than 50 employees to allow them unpaid time off for medical leave or to care for a family member.
Otherwise, there’s no national requirement to offer sick leave. So, as you might expect, American workers are familiar with coming into work in all but the worst health.
As a business expanding to America, you should view vacation and sick leave as something you include in the benefits package you offer under an umbrella term of ‘paid time off’.
This gives your American workers the flexibility to take whatever leave you offer as it suits them.
An expectation of a good benefits package
The upside of this very demanding work culture is that the smartest, most commercially aware and savviest American workers will expect a generous benefits package to reflect the effort they’re putting in.
The exact terms of a benefits package will vary from business to business, but it’s worth remembering that the best benefits packages are likely to attract the best candidates.
So, businesses making the move to the US will need to establish a pension plan (known as a 401k), health insurance (for both your workers and their families), sick leave and vacation time, and life insurance – all as a minimum.
In essence, there’s very little regulation of this kind of thing, but in reality, a good benefits package is expected of any reputable business.
Those are just a handful of examples of the typical features of the US work culture that you’re likely to experience if you move your business across the pond. It’s an adventure, that’s for sure!