From general working hours to parental leave and everything in between, we explain how to achieve a great work-life balance in Austria.
Work-life balance in Austria is easy to achieve. As a result, many expats find they have a more enjoyable quality of life when they move to the country. This is because Austria has a very strict business culture that has defined work hours. In addition, there are many government policies that enforce strict labor laws, as well as a lot of support for families. This all comes together to create a good work-life balance in Austria.
This helpful guide will explain how locals achieve work-life balance in Austria by covering the following topics:
- Work-life balance in Austria
- Work culture in Austria
- Working hours in Austria
- Parental leave in Austria
- Resources for maintaining work-life balance in Austria
- Work-life balance in Austria for the self-employed
- Tips for achieving a good work-life balance in Austria
- Useful resources
Work-life balance in Austria
In many ways, Austria is a traditional country and as such, the family plays a huge role in the local social structure. Because of this, there is generally a good work-life balance in Austria. Certainly, weekends are dedicated to family activities, and eating dinner with relatives is the norm. Essentially, many Austrians believe in flexibility around work and being able to properly balance their work commitments with family time.
Many companies recognize this and go out of their way to support it. For example, some employers offer on-site childcare or flexible working hours. In addition, some companies – such as the local branch of IBM – offer activities like yoga and massages to ensure staff can destress, as well as plenty of social activities. Furthermore, the government offers plenty of incentives for families and has strict labor laws that limit how much people can work.
Because of all of this, most people have a pretty good work-life balance in Austria. In fact, the country performs above the EU average in the three work-life balance indicators, including not being too tired for household chores after coming home from work; work not getting in the way of family responsibilities; and finding it difficult to concentrate at work because of family commitments. However, it appears that the work-life balance in Austria has been decreasing slowly over the last decade. Nevertheless, 80% of expats in Austria believe that their work-life balance has improved since moving to the country.
Work culture in Austria
Generally, the business culture in Austria is very formal. As such, at work, Austrians are formal, polite, and punctual. At the office, there is little room for personal discussions – particularly with new employees.
Nevertheless, strict government regulations mean that employers have to be flexible and afford their staff a lenient work-life balance. For example, Austria guarantees parental leave and certain requirements for remuneration. In addition, there is a generous leave allowance, which includes annual leave, public holidays, sick leave, study leave, and carer’s leave.
Working hours in Austria
Generally, the Austrian workday runs from 08:00 to 17:00, Monday to Thursday, and 08:00 to 15:00 on Fridays. Of course, everyone gets a full hour for lunch. In addition, a 15-minute break is required after six continuous hours of work. Because of this, most Austrians enjoy a slightly longer weekend than the rest of the world, allowing them to return to work on Monday feeling more refreshed.
Additionally, labor law limits the maximum working time to 12 hours a day or 60 hours a week. However, normally, most Austrians work an average of 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week. In certain industries, though, collective agreements can change this; that said, this is not common in white-collar roles. Furthermore, Austrian companies usually give five weeks of annual leave. Most of this is taken during the summer, but some is also taken over the Christmas period; all of which normally coincides with the school holidays. In addition, there are around 16 annual public holidays in Austria.
Parental leave in Austria
As a country, Austria is very supportive of parents and families. Therefore, if you are thinking about having a baby, you are definitely in the right place. In fact, there are many government policies in place to enforce parental leave, child benefits, childcare, and more. Of course, it all starts with maternity leave. Mothers-to-be get eight weeks before the birth as well as eight weeks after the birth of their child. In fact, the regulations are so strict that the employee cannot work at all during this time.
Fathers can also choose to take parental leave, dividing the eight weeks postpartum with the mother. In addition, since 2019, the Austrian Paternity Leave Act allows a father to take unpaid paternity leave for one month after the birth of their child.
While on maternity leave, the mother will receive a maternity allowance (Wochengeld), which is the same as her salary in the 13 weeks before her maternity leave. For fathers choosing to take the additional one-month unpaid paternity leave, the government actually allots a payment of €22.60/day or a maximum of €700.
Interestingly, Austria offers far better parental leave than many countries because of its very supportive policies. For example, the US does not have any legal protections for maternity leave. That said, certain progressive countries offer even better parental leave arrangements than Austria. This is particularly true of the Scandinavian countries – like Denmark – and Canada, for example.
Resources for maintaining work-life balance in Austria
Austria offers a wealth of resources to help you achieve a good work-life balance. However, monetary or fiscal benefits are mainly limited to families.
Financial resources for work-life balance in Austria
Parents can access numerous government benefits to try and achieve work-life-balance in Austria. This includes cash benefits for each child, child tax credits, and child-raising allowances. Although you have to meet the criteria for each of these, many of them are also available to expats.
Child benefits are part of a universal program for all residents of Austria. As a result, all employers contribute to this (indirectly) through contributions and taxes. However, the exact amount of the benefit depends on the age of the child, how many children there are in the family, and their respective ages. For example, before a child turns three, the parent will receive a benefit of €114 per month. However, after the age of 19 (in certain cases) the parent will receive €165.10 per month if the child is not working.
Additionally, a supplement is given to families with more than one child. This is on a sliding scale based on the number of children; so, for example, a family with two children gets €7.10 per month per child, while a family with five children gets €35.70 per month per child. If the parents meet certain low-income thresholds, they may also get an additional €20 per month per child. In addition to the child benefits, parents are also automatically granted child tax credits. This is €58.40 per child per month. You can read more about this in our Guide to the tax system in Austria.
Raising kids is not cheap, and so the Austrian government also provides flat-rate child-raising allowances. The daily benefit of this ranges between €14.53 and €33.88, depending on how you structure receiving the allowance. There is also an income-related child-raising allowance that can be claimed within a year of the child’s birth. This amounts to 80% of the parents’ latest income, up to a maximum of €66. However, you should note that this allowance is only available for the youngest child – a supplement of 50% kicks in for subsequent children.
Reduced working hours options in Austria
As in other parts of the world, alternative forms of work are becoming more popular in Austria. Because of this, job-sharing is becoming more common. As well as this, flexi-time allowances are also becoming useful, due to new regulations that came into force in 2018 allowing for different systems of flexi-time that can help extend time off. In general, though, it is women that use these flexible work options after they have children. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many expect that more flexible arrangements for remote work will also become more common in Austria.
Support services for work-life balance in Austria
To help employees achieve work-life balance in Austria, many companies in the country offer a range of policies. For instance, along with five weeks of annual leave, public holidays, and parental leave, Austrian employees can also benefit from sick days, leave for education or study, time off for caring for others, and compassionate leave for bereavement. In addition, many companies – especially the bigger institutions – offer services like occupational therapy, counseling, massages, yoga, childcare, and more. There are also many independent organizations that companies work with to create a culture of work-life balance. One example is EAPINSTITUTE, which promotes workplace wellness.
However, the state governments of Austria’s nine regions also provide numerous support services. For example, they provide family counseling, the afore-mentioned financial benefits, and a very well-thought-out network of childcare options. Furthermore, Austria’s labor laws are quite strict and are explicitly designed to protect employees. This in itself helps locals achieve a good work-life balance in Austria.
Work-life balance in Austria for the self-employed
As in much of the world, self-employed workers in Austria generally operate quite similarly to those working at companies. However, because they can set their own schedules, self-employed people tend to have a better work-life balance.
Importantly, self-employed and freelance workers are also entitled to the same benefits are regular employees when it comes to having children. While there is no official directive on parental leave, self-employed parents can take time off and access all the childcare benefits, tax reliefs, and allowances that any other parent can. Additionally, mothers are entitled to temporary help with their work during the 16-week period before and after the birth of their child.
Tips for achieving a good work-life balance in Austria
- Make sure to take frequent, short breaks during the workday
- Use up all your annual leave!
- Learn to prioritize – not everything has to be done immediately
- Stay organized
- Learn to manage your time – use calendars and diaries if you have to
- Create a productive workspace – this is especially important if you are self-employed and working from home
- Use the weekends to explore the beautiful natural surroundings
- Austria – Maternity and paternity benefits, European Commission – an EC page about parental leave in Austria
- Austria – Family benefits, European Commission – an EC page about family benefits in Austria
- Migration Austria – a government site about working in Austria
- SHRM – a human resources site article about new flexitime rules in Austria
- Eurofound – a page about job-sharing in Austria
- Business Culture – a page about work-life balance in Austria