The siesta is ingrained in Spanish culture, but the beloved afternoon nap could be outlawed if the country’s prime minister gets his way.
Mariano Rajoy, leader of Spain’s government, has put forward legislation that would put an end to Spain’s traditional working hours with a long lunch break. The proposed laws would see Spanish workers clocking off at 6pm, around two hours earlier than at present. But how would this affect entrepreneurs in Spain?
“I love siestas,” says Raj Anand, an entrepreneur who launched a number of products in Spain. “Before I started working in Spain, I never had a siesta. But while in Spain it was such a novelty that that I had to try it and then I got into it. Siestas are just one part of the culture.”
He says that he thinks the siesta has a positive impact on people’s wellbeing though. “It seems like the Spanish people are always happier and healthier. Whether they are in the midst of a financial crisis, or whether the economy is booming, they always have a big smile on their faces and want to live life to the fullest.”
Anand says that he can’t say that siestas are bad but admits he can see why Rajoy thinks it’s “not in line with the rest of Europe”. He adds: “In the UK we are used to a 30 minute lunch break, often at our desks. I was always fascinated by two hour lunch breaks, which came along with a 30 to 45 minute nap. It was a bit unusual for some clients who visited us from the UK and other countries but it’s part of their culture.”
Laura Hopkins and Rik van den Bosch, founders of Barcelona-based Healthy Start Holidays, say that they don’t tend to take siestas, “unless it’s been a particularly busy morning and a hot day”. In fact, they find that the siesta culture can make it hard to get things done. “We use a printing shop close to our office which takes siesta – we have to remember to get things printed when they’re open!”
They view the potential changes to working hours in Spain as something that could benefit entrepreneurs. “Spain is still really suffering the effects of the economic downtown, so I hope that it will encourage a higher level of productivity,” Hopkins says. “It’s true that expat friends have said the siesta hours can be disruptive to their work day, having experienced the usual office routine in other parts of the world without it.”
Anand is inclined to agree. “Working in line with the EU could potentially help [Spanish entrepreneurs],” he says. “It was often difficult to do 3pm meetings as it was siesta time. I believe now entrepreneurs in Spain will have more quality time to spend with families as they will work nine to five like most others.”
However, Arianna Huffington has recently predicted that nap rooms could become “as common as conference rooms” in offices over the next two years. At the Huffington Post, she is working to change the way that naps are viewed by most people – from something that means employees are disengaged and not dedicated to a “performance-enhancing tool”.
Anand thinks that this could be a solution to the difficulties of working around a siesta culture and says it would be a “fantastic idea” for other European countries to adopt the siesta.
Hopkins is less convinced that this is necessary, but identify that other countries also need to make changes to their lunch breaks. “The UK working culture of eating at the desk or stepping out to wolf down a sandwich is unhealthy,” she says. “Your body needs time to digest food, and it’s good to develop a relationship with what you’re eating, it helps us to eat well and the right amount. We also build relationships with co-workers away from our desks, which can help when we go back to work afterwards.”
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