Recently I've moved to Spain and started with a new job last week. In my home country, I would work 8 hours a day with a 30 - 60 min lunch break, and couple of short 10min breaks to relax the mind (Normally we would play FIFA or table tennis). If I got in the office at 9:00, I would leave at 17:00.

Here in Spain, I've been coming to the office at around 8:30. I was expecting to finish and go home by 16:30, but people who came before me were still in the office, therefore I didn't want to leave first. Sometimes I would leave at 17:30 (Which makes it 9 hours in total), and those other guys would still be there. This thing is really pressuring me. I'm sure that nobody would say nothing directly to me if I come at 8:30 and leave at 16:30, but I would still feel pressured for the reason above.

And not to mention that they don't even take the real break, they eat in office, and after that the only break is go to the toilet.

Even though I stay at work for 9 hours, I am far less productive when I was working for 8 hours and having one long break with couple of short ones.

How should I deal with this situation?

  • FWIW, I and most of my coworkers come in at 0900 and leave at 1700. One of my coworkers leaves at 1600. He gets all his tasks done, he does good work, and no one cares that he leaves early. I suspect this "pressure" is just in your head, and you'll just need to get used to feeling a bit weird about leaving with people still in the office. Plus, you don't know their situation -- maybe they come in at 0930, or they're waiting to catch a train, or any number of other things that keep them in later.
    – anon
    Oct 26, 2018 at 23:36
  • "couple of short 10min breaks to relax" - that's a bit too much imho.
    – BigMadAndy
    Oct 27, 2018 at 7:32
  • Lunch breaks are usually not part of 'working hours'. So getting in at 09:00, working 8 hours and taking 30-60 minutes lunch breaks would mean leaving at 17:30 or 18:00, not 17:00 (those 10 minute breaks are usually considered part of working, as long as you don't overdo it). Oct 27, 2018 at 12:11

5 Answers 5


In offices, especially larger offices, there are always different work styles. The thing that you need to figure out is whether or not people are recognized for face time in the office or for the work they do.

I have had coworkers like you and coworkers like your office mates. Personally, I don't care how people work, but I care a lot about the results. I would never ask what time someone went home or started in the morning unless their work wasn't done.

That being said, some managers don't like to pay attention to the actual work and would rather decide who is a good employee based on things like the time they arrive in the morning and what time they leave. You need to just monitor whether or not you'll face repercussions for following normal work hours at this office or not. If you see that you will, I strongly advise you move on and find a place that is more agreeable to you because in my experience these things don't change.


It may be useful for you to know that here in Spain this kind of attitude toward work is actually a thing:

Any google search for 'calentar la silla' will give you a lot of feedback about this. Basically those links talk about how in Spain lot of companies reject remote work completely, force employees to put extra hours on a daily basis and how human resources departments usually lack the power to make decisions about those things, only being used by companies to manage hiring/firing situations.

This, of course, really depends on the kind of company you work at and the sector. For instance, large consulting firms in Spain are well known for make their consultants to work extra hours on a daily basis. Some companies, however, are slowly moving to a new organizational models with more flexibility and better work schedules. Small companies, specially in tech, have much sane culture toward work hours.

Now, for what can you do, it really depends a lot upon the type of company you're working for, your performance and your managers:

  • There are companies where working just 8 hours is just not tolerated. Your progress and salary raises will be blocked if you try to stay in such a company. If you're not willing to work more hours on a daily basis, you should leave, there's no other way around.
  • You should absolutely talk to a co-worker who has spent some time in the company. People in Spain just stay a lot of hours in the office, it's a cultural thing. It may be very well OK for you to leave at the right hour and this not being a problem at all. It depends a lot on your company culture and your managers/bosses. At the end of the day, if your performance is good you should be fine in most companies.
  • Also, as you may yet know, in Spain is really typical for people to leave from work pretty early on fridays. They put a lot of hours from monday to thursday, then leave before lunch on fridays, sometimes working just 4 hours. Are you sure this is not the case in your company?
  • If you're not sure about any of this or your type of company, just put some extra hours the first weeks until you know more. If everyone in your company works more than 40 hours a week, you don't want to raise attention about this while you're the new kid on the block.
  • 2
    Could you please add some quotes or summaries for the links you provided? Links have the tendency to die and then the information you added to your post is lost. Quoting the most important aspects of these links preserves the information and enrichens your post for future readers.
    – Elmy
    Oct 26, 2018 at 17:24
  • I added some explanation for the links :-)
    – Sergeon
    Oct 27, 2018 at 10:33

When you move to a different country to take a new job, it is important to understand the cultural and legal expectations in that new country. This could have been critical information for you when deciding to take the position.

In a comment you mentioned being paid for 8 hours of work. From your description, it appears that in your former country being in the office for 8 hours counts as work even though you weren't really working all of the time(lunch plus breaks). IANAL, but it could be that in your former country the laws consider lunch to be part of the paid day, while in Spain they do not.

How should I deal with this situation?

Research the laws in Spain and the check other companies to see what the cultural norms are. You are in Spain now, the way things worked in your former country don't necessarily apply. As the old saying goes, "When in Rome, do as the Roman's do."

  • Any feedback from the down-voter?
    – cdkMoose
    Nov 2, 2018 at 16:57

Read your contract, figure out if breaks are counted against working time or not. (e.g. in Germany you have mandatory breaks which are not counted as working time). If you figure out that everything is as signed, try to make you peace with the situation or reduce your working time.

If you try to live with the situation, here is how I typically arrange it (if possible).:

  • you always have things to do which require a little bit less focus - shift them to times when you feel exhausted (e.g. from 16:30 to 17:30).

  • for 5-10 minute breaks: keep your own schedule here. It is important to have these, and if people are sitting all day in front of their machines it does not meant that they wont take a break.

  • if your performance metrics are right, nobody will complain about you 5 min breaks (in my experience)


Why are they staying?

You know what really grinds my gears? When I am working double overtime and someone who could be helping leaves early because "they value their time" I do too, I just have a sense of duty and pride towards my job.

I tend to do exactly what your coworkers are doing. I come in early, don't take breaks and typically stay late. It does not bother me that other people are not doing the same UNLESS there is something critical that needs to be addressed and I am the only on doing it.

You should not feel pressure to stay or skip breaks. I can't relax at work, I just can't. So I really hate taking breaks, that's just who I am. I would encourage everyone (who is not like me) to take all of their breaks and I would bet your co-workers are the same. Unless there is a reason to stay late or skip breaks don't worry about it.

  • But do you get paid for your overtime? If no, why do you do it? You are working for another person, not for you. You could be spending that time building your product / company. When I get home I start with my freelancing jobs, so my goal is to finish my 8 hour job on time so I can dedicate rest of the time for other jobs. And like I've said, I will do much more work if I work for 6 hours relaxed than if I work 9-10 hours without break.
    – Dino
    Oct 26, 2018 at 15:38
  • Sometime it depends what I'm doing. If I stay on my own accord and don't tell anyone, then no. If I ask for over time I get paid overtime. I don't have my own product nor do I want to make one. I am happy doing my job to the best of my ability and to me, that means sometimes staying late and not charging overtime. Again, I don't begrudge anyone not doing it, it's just how I do things Oct 26, 2018 at 16:12
  • Sorry, but this comment says more about you than about the OP's problem. My nature is similar to yours. I get almost physical pain when I see things not running as they should. I'm internally motivated, no matter how awful the employer is. The problem is employers rarely value employees like that. I've even been bullied for being so engaged. I've been exploited. That's why I'm working on myself not to be so dedicated and I would advise you the same, unless you are profiting from it in some form.
    – BigMadAndy
    Oct 27, 2018 at 7:52

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