What foreigners need to know about Austria's work culture
Moving to Austria means living in a different culture, but what impact does it have on the workplace?
For the most part, quite a lot – especially for international residents used to a work hard, play hard lifestyle that’s present in many English-speaking countries. To break it down, here’s what you need to know about the work culture in Austria.
Expect a healthy work-life balance
In countries like the UK and the USA, there is a strong live-to-work mentality with jobs often dominated by long working hours and a culture of presenteeism.
However, in Austria it’s the opposite.
Although people are still ambitious and hard-working, there is more focus on a healthy work-life balance and a family-friendly attitude in the workplace.
Emily Hamnet, a British graphic designer living in Tyrol, told The Local: “You work the hours needed and no more, which is great, and it’s frowned upon when you stay late, so it’s the opposite to the UK.
“People are in the office early though, usually from 7.30am and the culture is very family-friendly.
“Even the big boss at my work congratulated me personally about having kids and told me to enjoy a long maternity leave.”
Mike Bailey, a German to English translator in Vienna, has lived in Austria for 20 years and identified a healthy attitude towards work as a key part of the Austrian work culture.
He told The Local: “My take, from working in the public and private sector, is that even Vienna and large employers still subscribe to the importance of a healthy work-life balance, and a tendency to slope off early on a Friday afternoon.
“The existence of the Sommerloch and a surfeit of public holidays make January to April and September to December the key working times of the year.
“My advice would be to embrace it rather than resist it.”
The Sommerloch is a reference to the summer silly season in July and August when many people in the country take a holiday.
Most top jobs are taken by men
Austria is still quite a conservative and traditional country in many ways, which means the work culture can be hierarchical with men occupying most top positions in organisations.
This is sometimes attributed to the availability of long maternity leave for women, but it’s also well-known that gender inequality in the labour market is ingrained in Austrian culture.
In particular, the gender pay gap in Austria is one of the largest in the EU, with many women either working part time or in lower-paying roles in the service industry.
According to the Federal Chancellery Republic of Austria, women are also underrepresented in top management positions in the economy, science, research, politics and public services.
What does this mean in the workplace?
Basically, expect decisions to be made by top management, and for most senior roles to be taken by men.
Socialising doesn’t always involve after-work drinks at the pub
A typical Friday in many offices around the world involves knocking off at 5pm and heading to the nearest pub with colleagues.
This happens in Austria too, although many people finish work earlier on a Friday, so socialising with colleagues sometimes takes place at other times.
One way is with Kaffee und Kuchen (coffee and cake), which is an important part of Austrian culture and even extends to the office.
Graphic designer Emily said: “Coffee and cake is a big thing – we have that often, even if it’s not a big event or someone's birthday.
“If a colleague visits from another office, there is always time to sit down for a chat and have a coffee and a slice of cake.”
A British woman living in Tyrol, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Local: “After-work beers on a Friday were always a thing before the pandemic at my husband’s office – similar to the UK.
“But it depends what field you work in as I know plenty of people wouldn't dream of mixing business with pleasure here.
“Although some builders will even have a beer at lunchtime.”
Professional qualifications are very important
Titles are celebrated in Austria – especially professional titles – and they are regularly used in business correspondence with BA or MA included in names.
For people from countries where this is not common, it can take some getting used to.
The British woman in Tyrol said: “Everyone loves a title here and I've been quizzed by colleagues about my qualifications.
“It depends where you work if you are treated as equals in a team with the same goal or made to feel less worthy because of the titles you don't have, and I've experienced both here.”
In day-to-day life, using a professional title is often down to personal choice, whereas in the workplace it’s expected in Austrian culture.
This can feel uncomfortable but, as with many aspects of living overseas, it’s often better to embrace differences rather than resist them.
Especially when integrating into a new work culture.