From Italy with Love: A Lesson on Alignment

A Lesson on Alignment

From Italy with Love: A Lesson on Alignment

A Wednesday afternoon stroll down an Italian street is an otherworldly experience for this Canadian. Men and women in business attire enjoying a glass of Chianti at a cafe table. Lovers with interlaced fingers wandering down an unhurried sidewalk. A shop owner engaged in a powernap in a chair behind her business. Here’s what I’ve learned about Italians: they love riposo. What’s riposo? It’s an intentional time of rest built into the Italian working day. Many Italian business owners will close their doors at 2 pm for a late lunch, a glass of wine, socializing, and perhaps even an afternoon nap. Don’t worry, the business day is not done… Most Italian businesses reopen at 5:00 pm For two to three additional hours of work before folks enjoy a late supper with family and friends. Refreshed by their riposo, business owners and workers alike feel recharged for the afternoon rush of sales, project tasks, and preparation for the next day.

The payoff for this unorthodox approach to the workday? Enhanced work/life balance. The data agrees. A 2022 study by the Europe-based Organisation for Economic Co-cooperation and Development (OECD) found that Italians enjoy the best work/life balance – by a large margin – in the world. The report also notes that “the most important aspect for a healthy work-life balance is the amount of time people spend (not) at work, how many people work very long hours, and how much time remains for leisure.” Research also shows that long work hours may impair personal health, jeopardize safety, and increase stress. For the record, US workers rank 29th on the work/life balance list.

While riposo may not be your personal recipe for enhanced work/life balance, it is vitally important to work in a setting aligned with your personal values. When alignment is absent, burnout and work disillusionment are present. Now let’s be clear… your values may look nothing like my values. I, for one, prioritize personal happiness, family time, inclusivity, mentoring opportunities, and meaningful work for meaningful businesses as the values that drive the kind of work I do and who I will work for in the corporate environment. You, on the other hand, may value creativity, the opportunity to work remotely, and access to community-impact opportunities as the core values you seek in the workplace. The key? Alignment. When we compromise who we are and what we seek out of life purely in pursuit of financial gain, we’ll eventually loathe our work and loathe ourselves for the compromises we made for the business. The compromises inevitably hurt the people we love too. I spent more than a few years deconstructing the compromises I made in my early years in my corporate environment. There was misalignment. So, ponder these little queries in your own quest for work/life balance: What’s important to you? Does your work align with what’s important?

The Italians sometimes say, “Vino rosso fa buon sangue,” literally, “Red wine makes good blood.” While one can hear this literally as homage to a perfect Chianti, it’s meant to be a commentary about enjoying the best of life free from painful, unnecessary compromises. Do good work my friends, work aligned with who you are and what’s most important to you and the people you love. Enjoy the second glass of vino rosso too.