5 Differences Between Workplaces in the Czech Republic and the States
While traveling abroad most people notice stark differences from their home country right away, often noted as culture shock. However, when living abroad for an extended period of time the shock begins to ware off, and what's left is often an appreciation for a new way of living and in my case, working. Czech culture often referred to as Bohemian culture, is heavily ingrained in the daily lives of its people, and of course it holds influence over how their workplaces are arranged.
The Daily Commute
As Prague is a relatively compact city, many locals live and work within reasonable distances of each other. The public transportation system is excellent, including buses, trams and an underground subway. It's clean, efficient and very affordable. Many people use it to get to and from the office rather than driving, as parking and space can be an issue in the city.
Work- Life Balance
In the Czech Republic, all employees are entitled to four weeks of holiday each year, usually distributed as one week during the winter months and three weeks in the summer. Family life is held to the highest importance, often trumping work and social obligations when necessary. In some parts of the country, women are still encouraged to prioritize domestic tasks over corporate ones, and many companies offer generous maternity benefits (up to four years maternity leave) in some cases.
Czechs are routinely formal when making work connections, even asking "how are you?" during a first meeting can be viewed as intrusive. Referring to business partners by Mr. or Mrs. is also expected, and thought to be disrespectful if forgotten. In the Czech Republic employees, particularly those of the older generation, often keep their distance and refer to each other formally, even with coworkers they have interacted with for years. However, most Czech people are aware of the differences in other countries, and welcome more social interactions between colleagues from other countries.
Unlike some other European countries, promptness for business meetings is extremely important. Preliminary stages of negotiation can seem slow to westerners, but this is just the Czech's way of avoiding the unknown. Many say this is because of the country's turbulent history with authoritarian government. Czech colleagues may show signs of flexibility during negotiations, and even hire a mediator during the first stages of business with a new partner. This is all normal business practice, and while it may take them longer to come to an agreement, this shouldn't be misunderstood as disinterest.
I have found the culture at my coworking space, Opero, very similar to the states. However, it is important to note that most coworking spaces whether in Pittsburg or Paris tend to house entrepreneurs and remote workers, so the culture is more likely to be community driven and less formal overall.
I have been told that in more structured offices, the daily interactions of coworkers are just that, more structured. Suits and ties are expected when working with clients and meetings are requested in written form. Desks or offices are normally assigned, and there is little emphasis towards the activity-based working environment. However, this type of traditional office is becoming less common, and the coworking trend in Prague is rapidly expanding as younger workers filter into the workforce.
Be Wary of "How are You?"
Back home, this phrase is fairly common, and we don't expect much of a response in return. I asked a few locals this same question, and was a bit surprised at the responses I received. One example of this, when I asked this question my neighborhood barista was all to eager to let me know that he was scolded for coming in to work late for the third time, that he was thinking of quitting that afternoon and that the scones were old. I guess you get what you ask for.