Working in Spain: finding a healthy work-life balance

Article by Marc Vervoort

Having a good work-life balance and making time to relax is important for many Spaniards. According to the OECD, full-time workers in Spain, spend about 66 percent of their day on personal care and leisure. Only the French spend more time chilling out. Yet, at the same time, the Spanish do work hard. How do they balance everything?

Work hard but within limits

There is a myth that Spaniards don’t work a lot, while in reality, it’s the contrary. Research from the World Economic Forum shows that, in the EU, Spain ranks 3rd in the average amount of weekly hours worked. Most Spaniards work full-time, as part-time usually isn’t an option. But, there are limits. The Spanish know better when it’s time to go home than many other nationalities. Just 5 percent work very long hours, compared to a 13 percent average in OECD-countries.

Flexible hours slowly on the rise

Many companies in Spain still use strict office hours from 9:00 till 18:00. However, this is gradually changing. Especially tech and international companies are starting to give employees more flexibility as well as the option to work from home to help them achieve a better work-life balance.

What happened to the siesta?

Spain is famous for its siesta, but we hate to burst your bubble. At most companies, it doesn’t exist anymore. But it’s for the better.

Most people couldn’t return home for the siesta. As a result, they would have a 3-hour lunch break and have to stay at work till 20:00. This made it very hard to keep an optimal work-life balance. Besides, most other European businesses close after 18:00. By applying regular European business hours, it’s easier to trade.

Certain family businesses and smaller stores do still keep the siesta. They’ll close between 13:30 till 16:30, give or take 30 minutes. That’s why stores in Spain are always open until about 21:00, which is great if you want to go shopping after work.

Late nights, early mornings

The Spanish know how to max out their day. Primetime movies start at 22:00 and end well past midnight. Even during the week, dinners with friends don’t start before 21:00, and usually even later. It’s no surprise, a Spanish commision found that Spaniards sleep 53 minutes less than the European average.

The upside of this sleep deprivation is that Spanish cities are always full of life late into the evenings, no matter the day. You can catch up on your sleep with a Sunday siesta, which does still exist.


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