Moving to Italy, as a career option or a retirement plan, is a shared goal of many people all over the world. And, if you talk to those who have put this plan into practice, you will almost universally hear that they were motivated by the quality of life, which is perceived to be higher in Italy than in most Western Countries. According to a recent OECD study, this might be due to Italy’s excellent work-life balance. With an index of 9.4 out of 10, Italy ranks among the top countries in the world for work-life balance. The index was compiled taking into account several parameters, from the percentage of employees working very long hours to the average time dedicated to hobbies, self-care, personal grooming, sports, family life, food, sleep and so on.
Working too much is a health hazard
While the modern culture of hyper-efficiency may dismiss this as the clever statement of a lazy employee, there is actual medical evidence that this is, in fact, the case. Working too much can increase stress and create significant damage to both mental and physical health, particularly if it cuts into the time we dedicate to other important aspects of our lives (including family, friends, and sleep). In Italy, only 4% of full-time employees have been found to work unhealthily long hours, against the OECD average of 11%.
Healthy policies for healthy workers
Governments that implement childcare support policies for workers, such as funding programs for the care and entertainment of pre-school children during the parents’ working hours, paid parental leave and efficient school transport, help create a healthier work-life balance for working parents (particularly women). This also maximises work attendance and, therefore, productivity. While private companies don’t always excel at providing such services for their employees, the Italian government has been experimenting with programs of this nature, starting with its own staff. The programs are not yet as pervasive or advanced as they could be, but their implementation is, nonetheless, a step in the right direction.
Italian culture and La Dolce Vita: it’s all about work-life balance
There is also a cultural aspect to this. It is deeply embedded in the Italian way of thinking that work should be secondary to the enjoyment of life. “You work to live, you don’t live to work” is much more common a motto in Italy than, say, the yuppie mantra of the 80s “work hard, play hard”. Evaluating your work-life balance from time to time and asking yourself whether or not you are getting the best out of your life and whether or not you are enjoying it to the full is an unconscious, almost automatic exercise that will periodically lead many to reconsider their position and try to adjust it, in order to have more time to devote to personal relations and pleasurable activities. This is the ultimate secret of La Dolce Vita.