Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Work schedules in Mexico

One of the things that expats always notice when they move to Mexico is the difference in the work schedules.  While many businesses in the US require employees to start around 7:30 or 8, in Mexico it is not uncommon to have a 9 or 9:30am start time.  In Mexico City, many employers have changed the start times to accomodate for the horrendous traffic, so while they ask their employees to come in at 7:30, they let them leave at 4pm. 

If you are driving through any major Mexican metropolis at night you'll notice people in office buildings working at 7, 8, 9pm.  Again, sometimes they stay late to avoid traffic and sometimes they just stay because they are still working.  Mexico has a collectivist culture where there is a real emphasis on following the group and social norms, so breezing by your boss and coworkers' offices at 5pm and waving goodbye is seen as a big no-no. No one may say anything to you, but believe me, they notice.

Expats often ask "Why do Mexicans work such long hours?"  There are a number of reasons that the Mexican work day seems longer than the typical workday in the US, Canada and Europe.  One of the reasons is of course the traffic.  Why spend 2 hours on the Periferico when you can get some work done and then get home in half an hour instead?  Another big reason - longer lunch breaks.  One hour is standard in most businesses, but once you get to an executive level it is not uncommon to spend 2 hrs out at lunch.  Lastly, more social time in Mexican offices.  Unlike many places in corporate America, where people have their nose to the grindstone in their offices and rarely take breaks, Mexican employees like to socialize and talk to their coworkers and bosses throughout the day, thus making the workday longer. 

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