Finding that perfect harmony between work and the rest of your life can feel next to impossible some times. It can be hard to separate the two from each other, especially as, at least in the United States, we spend most of the hours we have in a week at work. In recent years, there has been a push for individuals to more clearly define this balance in their lives, so nobody ends up living a life filled with regret sitting behind a computer screen for 40 years.
Since arriving in Italy, I have noticed that finding this balance seems to come naturally. Whereas in America, people have worked themselves to the point where they become physically sick, work in Italy seems to be just that – work. It is a job that when you’re done for the day, that’s it. There’s no such thing as bringing work home with you, and even when Italians take lunch/coffee breaks, work instantly becomes the last thing on their minds.
That instinct does not exist in America. In the US, working over 40 hours a week is natural and not working that long is seen as strange. Perhaps it is because the business world in the United States is just a more competitive environment, but from a young age, Americans are told that in order to be the best, they have to push themselves and put in the hours upon hours of work. However, that mentality is extremely detrimental to one’s body and mental health. I have watched people refuse to go to sleep, even if it is 3 in the morning, because all of their work is not done. That attitude is not healthy. Not only does it physically hurt your body, but it becomes very taxing on your mental state and can leave you feeling out of balance.
I’ve been in Italy for only a few weeks and just in observing individuals at my campus and around my neighborhood I have noticed how strong of a grasp the Italians have on the life over work concept. People in America will live and die by their work, but that’s not the case here. Perhaps it’s just me, but Italians also seem happier and more relaxed than a majority of Americans. Maybe it’s because work stays at work and nowhere else.
The US is only just starting to adopt policies to encourage better balances between work and life, such as “disconnect policy” which allows individuals to refuse to check emails or other forms of communication from work after certain hours or on the weekends. But the country still has a lot of work to do if we ever hope to be as balanced as the Italians are.