Understanding work culture in Geneva

The work culture in Geneva
Updated 2019-08-01 07:34

The phrase live to work is applicable in many offices in and around Geneva, which can be a culture shock to some foreign nationals. So you better be mentally prepared before joining your new workplace. Here are some tips to help you understand the local work environment.

The dress code in Geneva

Unless your employer tells you otherwise, you should wear formal work attire to the office. For women, this consists of a dress or formal shirt with trousers or a skirt. Men should wear a suit and tie. Some offices might have casual Friday, where you can wear something less formal, but you should ask your colleagues or employer first.

There are many shops in Eaux-Vives where you can buy appropriate work clothes that will suit a range of budgets, from H&M to Louis Vuitton and Chanel. Alternatively, you can head to the Balexert shopping mall in Vernier, just outside of the main city, which has over 30 clothing stores under one roof.

Working hours, breaks and meetings in Geneva

The working culture is very structured. Most international people move to Geneva to work, so there is an expectation that they do so. Hours are usually from 8:30 am to 6 pm with an hour for lunch, though some people choose to go to the gym instead.

For lunch, most people will go to the office cafeteria and eat with colleagues or go to a restaurant or cafe close to the office. Having a glass of wine at lunch is not frowned upon, especially if you are with colleagues. In summer, many people choose to take their home-cooked or store-bought lunch to the lake or a nearby park and eat outside. It is uncommon for people to eat their lunch at their desk.

As the country known for running on time, meeting work deadlines is taken quite seriously in Geneva. So, if you need to work later hours to complete a project, there is an unwritten expectation for you to do so. You can try to negotiate extra time off work in lieu or ask your manager if there is a policy of being paid overtime, but this is not the norm. If there is a work function - i.e a formal dinner or event - you will not be paid extra for these hours.

Work attitude in Geneva

Offices in Geneva mostly operate on traditionally hierarchical structures - i.e. there is a clear division of labour between you and your manager, but you should maintain a friendly relationship with your colleagues. There is an expectation of respect, both of the company that you work for and your senior managers.

You are expected to complete your workload by the deadlines set by your managers, even if you find yourself being asked to do more than you are capable of in your work hours.

Sometimes foreign employees complain that their Swiss managers are cold. This is because trust is earned, and hardworking employees are noticed.

The work-life balance in Geneva

Because people work quite hard during the week, there is an emphasis on having a good work-life balance. Many offices will have office sports teams and monthly social calendar to encourage socializing with colleagues outside of office hours.

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