Here’s a typical day for an office worker in Spain: Arrive at 9 a.m. Midmorning, pop down to a cafe for a coffee and small sandwich. Work until 2 p.m. Head home for lunch — by the way, nowadays, hardly anyone takes a siesta.
Then, be back to work by 4 p.m. to get out by 7 p.m. Eat dinner at 10 p.m., and watch TV until midnight or later.
“It’s a long day,” said Barcelona lawyer Arnau Martí, still at his desk past 8 p.m. on a recent weekday.
Compared to America’s 9-to-5 workday and hurried desk lunches, Spain’s later and more leisurely schedule might seem relaxing, the picture of healthy Mediterranean life. But the Spanish government sees the country’s 9-to-7 — or later — business hours as a health hazard: stressful, depressing and family-unfriendly. So, even though 7 out of 10 working Spaniards say they’re satisfied with the workday the way it is, the government is trying to speed it up and shorten it.
It’s developing a plan to get people to do everything earlier — work, eat, watch TV, sleep. The government is even trying to roll the clocks back an hour so the sun rises sooner. The goal? A less tired, more efficient and relaxed Spain, in sync with the rest of Europe.
That all sounds good to Gemma Bochaca Royo, a small-business owner and mother of two. She and her husband usually work until 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. Their kids are in after-school activities until 6 p.m., which leaves the family’s schedule out of sync by a couple of hours.
“It’s not well-organized,” she said. “It’s not well set up.”
But even change Spaniards are in a hurry for won’t come quickly. The most concrete plan for better work-life balance — from Spain’s northeastern region of Catalonia — asks the 110 companies and unions that have signed on so far to shorten the workday by 2025.
This article originally appeared on PRI.ORG. Its content was created separately to USA TODAY.
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