In Ireland we have finally woken up after a cold dreary start to the month of January. We had what feels like the annual “cold snap” last week where snow and ice covered our roads, paths and mountains. Now it’s a new week and we are ready to look forward to a brighter Spring! As I type, thousands of people all over the world are receiving the long-awaited vaccine and despite the restrictions and bad news on numbers of COVID cases here, we have some things to look forward to.
Today I’m looking forward to meeting our Spring virtual internship students who will be virtually stepping in the doors of two well-known successful companies in Dublin this Spring. They will be presented with some important projects to work on over the next few months and more importantly will gain insight into what it means to be part of the workplace in Ireland. In many ways the students are getting a good taste of what most Irish office workers are doing right now – working remotely! Like many people all over the world, non-essential workers in Ireland have all been asked to find a good working space in their homes and stay there until this chaos all passes. The virtual workplace is one that I think will become more common in Ireland and beyond but that is a story for a different day!
Today we will discuss the workplace culture in Ireland. Along with our Director and my colleague, I have experienced this for the last two decades as part of a team in our Dublin Center so have definitely some points to share. Without further ado I’d like to share some of these now and hope to continue this conversation today when we meet with our students.
In no particular order, my first observation from working with both Irish and American people is that we in Ireland are a lot less direct in our correspondence. In my experience, we are even less direct during a phone call than in an email. When we know someone well, I’m not joking but a general catch up could go on for up to ten minutes before we get to the point of the call. Our inability to say goodbye once is also a thing! We tend to prepare the person for a goodbye, then continue to chat, then say goodbye twice and then hang up! It is really funny to think of as I write this but I believe that it is true. My second observation is the importance of taking breaks in Ireland. By breaks I mean annual leave as we call it. In America I know that it is not unusual to have only two weeks vacation time a year. In Ireland that would simply not happen! The minimum holiday period or annual leave days here is 20 days. That often doesn’t include days around Christmas or Easter. Did I mention that we get up to 11 public holiday (called Bank Holidays) days too! When I had my son four years ago, I along with other Irish mothers in Ireland received a minimum of 6 months off work (I was busy of course) but I still didn’t need to work. The government pays us a set amount each week during those six months. If we want to take a further four months off, we can at our own cost! I was shocked when I heard that maternity leave at a maximum can be only six weeks in the States and in some cases, even less! In Ireland we also have an attitude of Work to live and not Live to work.
Another thing that I have noticed as part of the small office environment is the importance of taking a break throughout the day. I have worked with Americans and I have worked with Irish and I’ve noticed the difference around the attitude towards lunch breaks. Americans often don’t take a one-hour lunch break or they tend to maybe grab a quick bite at their desk before launching back into work! Why? Does it make the Irish seem lazy if we take our hour? We still get the work done so I doubt it. By the way, our lunchbreaks tend to be between 1-2pm which may seem later than the American 12 noon break time.
As I said, I’m excited to learn more about what is on students minds today and throughout the Semester in our discussions. We would also like to provide our Virtual Internship students with an opportunity to learn more about Irish culture in general. Throughout the Semester we will host a number of cultural events around all things Irish. I’m thinking food, St. Patrick, Easter, International Women’s day but will write about this in more detail as our plans unfold. We will invite our Scottish friends and students too and keep the Virtual Student Community alive.
Now its time for my lunch break!