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Working in an office in Italy isn’t hugely dissimilar to America, but there is often a very structured day and a huge respect for work-life balance. Italians work on average 36 hours a week, with a legal maximum of 40, so you’re generally not going to find employees slogging it out at 10pm. There is however, a real emphasis on teamwork, socializing together and working in tandem with one another. Having a work family is important and helps everything run smoothly.

Getting to know you

In the private sector, office hours are generally 9am – 1pm and then 2.30pm until 6pm – that gives you 1 ½ hours to have a leisurely lunch. This lunch time however, is valuable to the business and gives colleagues and their managers an opportunity to get to know one another. Having an effective onboarding process is important, and understanding a new employee’s skills and attributes is part of this. Making social connections helps forge a stronger bond in the office, and this can be done at lunch time. Long business lunches with clients and customers are very common too in Italian culture, but heavy drinking in these meetings is frowned upon – it is professional to go for a San Pellegrino rather than a carafe of red wine.

A formal environment

Life in an Italian office is extremely formal and quite regimented. Compared to the US, you won’t generally find people “going with the flow,” or “thinking outside of the box.” Timetables are stuck to and deadlines are met. There is enormous respect too for the office hierarchy, and most organizations have a very strict management system, where age and levels of power are extremely important. Senior management in offices will generally be older too and they will be the ones to make any strategic decisions. Within a family firm, it will be the family that makes the final decisions on anything business related.

The Italian way

In an Italian office, you won’t find the American concept of casual Fridays – the dress-code is formal and stylish. There is an expectation that all staff will dress elegantly – suits and ties are not optional. One of the biggest differences between the US and Italy is that all business is conducted in Italian – if you’re getting a job in an Italian office, you will need to be fully fluent, as the majority of the population doesn’t understand English or will avoid speaking it. Conversations and meetings can be very fast and furious too – there is always a focus on getting the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible. Conversational and listening skills are essential if you are working in an Italian office.

The format of a working day isn’t much different in Italy than in the US, and there is a good work-life balance. But business is very formal, the dress code is smart and there is a deep respect for the office hierarchy. Everyone should know where they stand in Italy.

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