When I moved to Spain it took me quite some getting used to the working hours, especially after having worked in Denmark and Germany right before moving here it felt like I suddenly had these never-ending days. The concept of 9to5 working hours is completely unknown (5? That´s when you just sat down after lunch again) and it would be more something like 9.30to8 or something.
Obviously the question always remains how efficient those days actually are. A typical day in my office shows that most people start between 9am and 10am (9.30am is kind of the most common hour to start but it´s not weird at all to see someone come in after 10am either, actually today I had problems with the train and therefore I arrived super
late, 10.30, but I was definitely not the last one coming in) but mind you, then oftentimes you did not really have breakfast yet so that´s the first agenda ite m. Then of course there is the famous long lunch break (to be fair, not everyone has a 2hour lunch each day but if you want to you can and it´s quite normal to go out for lunch and be away for 2hours) with a big lunch (after lunch dip anyone?) and most people would go home probably between 7pm and 8pm. But again, having a lot of people still in the office after 8pm is not weird at all.
One can always debate how efficient the different working hours and schedules are in different countries, but I honestly don´t believe in 12h productivity. I simply don´t think we´re made to be completely focused and producing for that many hours. (That´s why I also don´t really believe in the typical consultancy working days of 16hours, sorry for the McKinsey´s amongst us, but we´re not machines and so I guess we have a limit of real productivity)
So why do we want to spend sooo many hours in the office? Who are we trying to fool? I mean if you´re at the beginning of your career, early twenties, full of energy and determined to quickly rise on the career ladder maybe there´s something to say for making long days and trying to proof yourself because you probably don´t have a family yet, might live alone and if there´s no one waiting at home you might as well just spend the time in the office. (Still despite of not having anyone waiting at home I could think of many activities I would much rather do than being 12hours in the office just for the sake of it….but that´s another debate) To be fair, in Spain social life is also much later in the evening than what I was used to from the North of Europe, so you can perfectly stay in the office until 9pm and still go to the gym or meet with friends for dinner since life in general is much later (although for me by that time I probably end up on the couch instead of going to the gym..). So ok, you could do both but I see this as a kind of never-ending story because you also go to bed later, get up later, get to the office later etc…
Read also: Dutch bed times in a Spanish schedule
However, where I really have issues understanding is when you have a family at home, why on earth would you want to stay in the office until so late? I for one always am very happy if I still get to spend a couple of hours with my bichin before he goes to bed. I would actually dare to say that I got more efficient at work since I am a mother so I can get the same amount of work done but can go home at a proper time. And if that means less coffee breaks to gossip with colleagues, getting started earlier (let´s face it, with a baby you´re up early anyway) and a 30min lunch break, that works perfectly fine for me.
Currently there is this debate ongoing in Spain on whether the country needs to go to UK time zone because that would solve all of these problems (working late and therefore too little time with family, going to bed late and therefore consistently not having enough sleep and being less productive, dinner late etc.) but honestly I think it´s more of a cultural issue, probably if you change the time zone it would be different for a week or so before we go back to normal with the late schedule and endless working hours.