American workers spend more hours on the job and enjoy significantly less company-paid vacation and other down-time than their counterparts in other industrialized countries, according to a commentary by author Eric Weiner in the Los Angeles Times.

“This endless toil comes at a price. Time spent at the office — or, worse, commuting — is time not available for the activities that researchers consistently find make us happier: communing with family and friends, exercising, enjoying a fine meal, listening to music. A nose permanently yoked to the grindstone is a nose that is unable to smell the flowers or anything else.

So why this stubborn reluctance to take a break? The knee-jerk explanation is that old standby, the Protestant work ethic. Yes, we are a nation of worker bees, and proud of it, but that tells only part of the story. There’s something else going on: fear. In a down economy, no one wants to look like a slacker. Companies don’t need to tighten vacation policies to save a few bucks. Workers are doing it for them.”

Need a good argument to step away from your desk, lay down the Blackberry and head for the beach? Read the full article here.