Characteristics of Work Culture in Italy

If you have just moved to Italy and you are looking for employment or you have just landed the job of your dreams, you may wonder about the extent to which your new office’s culture will differ from what you are used to in your country of origin. Italy is a country that excels in a number of industries (including production, machinery, automobiles, and aerospace) and it is home to a plethora of national, multinational, and international companies that uphold the highest professional standards. It is also a country known to have a good work-life balance. Family time is treasured, the maximum working week is set at 40 hours, and overtime cannot exceed 48.

A Balance of Work and Rest

A good indicator of the importance of balance in Italian corporate culture is the policy on holidays and annual leave. The minimum time period for holidays is four weeks annually, but some contracts — particularly those of state employees — allow for five weeks. Maternity and parental leave are also impressive compared to many other countries. For instance, female employees cannot work during the two months prior to their planned delivery date (this period is extended to three months in the case of dangerous jobs). During maternity leave, new moms are entitled to 80% of their regular salary. Sickness and disability leave is also respected, with employees protected against job loss or demotions.

The Value of Group Rewards

National culture is an important factor in determining rewards for optimal work performance. Rewards are important regardless of where you come from; as found by research conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management, around 79% of workers put more effort into their work when they feel valued. Typical rewards include monetary rewards, verbal praise, written praise, and the like. Research indicates that Italian workers have a positive view of performance-related pay as a reward, with a preference for group rather than individual rewards. They also slightly prefer non-financial to financial rewards and prefer to have a high fixed salary with small rewards, preferring long-term over short-term goals.

Greeting Others

While the general ambience in offices is friendly, hierarchy is respected. Thus, bosses should be spoken to using the formal ‘lei’ instead of ‘tu’. Italian companies tend to have a pyramid-shaped hierarchy, with decisions usually made by people at the top of the pyramid. Therefore, while the feedback and suggestions of employees are appreciated, bosses have the ultimate say and it is important to maintain respect even in less formal settings.

Getting to Know Your Colleagues

Italy is famed for its long lunches, with one survey indicating that the average lunchtime is 90 minutes. However, many companies prefer shorter lunches so that employees can have a shorter working day. If you do work in a company with a long lunch, enjoy this break with your colleagues if possible, since bonding is seen as a key component of being part of a team. Take this time to go outside and visit a green area with a few colleagues, since doing so is a great way to battle stress by checking out Italy’s beautiful landscapes and architectural wonders.

Italian companies are known to offer workers a good work-life balance. Maternity and paternity rights are well respected, as is the idea that family time matters. While most businesses have a pyramidal hierarchy in places, the ambience at most companies is friendly and it is easy to form good relationships with colleagues who very often become friends as well.

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