Thursday, February 20, 2014

Is It Time for Spain to Reset Its Clocks?

Spain is on a unique schedule, where the work day starts late, breaks for a three hour lunch and siesta, and then starts up again until 7 or 8 in the evening. The dinner hour starts at 10pm, along with the prime time television schedule, and most Spaniards are still up watching television until midnight or later.  

Part of the reason for this perennial "lateness" can be traced to Spain shifting from Greenwich Mean Time to Central European Time to be in synch with Hitler during World War 2, when the largely agrarian society timed their day by the sun and not artificial clock time.  But after the war neighboring Portugal shifted their clock back to the earlier GMT while Spain didn't, and their late hours became more ingrained.

Now the economic crisis has Spanish labor experts rethinking productivity and work habits, and considering returning the country to the GMT time zone that it geographically is aligned to.  Then comes the harder work of convincing locals to work an 8 to 5 workday like their European neighbors.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:
The New York Times

Link to article:

Excerpt: "Spain still operates on its own clock and rhythms. But now that it is trying to recover from a devastating economic crisis — in the absence of easy solutions — a pro-efficiency movement contends that the country can become more productive, more in sync with the rest of Europe, if it adopts a more regular schedule.

Yet what might sound logical to many non-Spaniards would represent a fundamental change to Spanish life. For decades, many Spaniards have taken a long midday siesta break for lunch and a nap. Under a new schedule, that would be truncated to an hour or less. Television programs would be scheduled an hour earlier. And the elastic Spanish working day would be replaced by something closer to a 9-to-5 timetable.

Underpinning the proposed changes is a recommendation to change time itself by turning back the clocks an hour, which would move Spain out of the time zone that includes France, Germany and Italy. Instead, Spain would join its natural geographical slot with Portugal and Britain in Coordinated Universal Time, the modern successor to Greenwich Mean Time.

'We want to see a more efficient culture,' said Ignacio Buqueras, the most outspoken advocate of changing the Spanish schedule. 'Spain has to break the bad habits it has accumulated over the past 40 or 50 years.'

For the moment, Spain’s government is treating the campaign seriously. In September, a parliamentary commission recommended that the government turn back the clocks an hour and introduce a regular eight-hour workday. As yet, the government has not taken any action.

A workday abbreviated by siestas is a Spanish cliché, yet it is not necessarily rooted in reality. Instead, many urban Spaniards complain of a never-ending workday that begins in the morning but is interrupted by a traditional late-morning break and then interrupted again by the midday lunch. If workers return to their desks at 4 p.m. (lunch starts at 2), many people say, they end up working well into the evening, especially if the boss takes a long break and then works late."

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