Workplace environments: Why should companies understand them?

When expanding, companies will often need to hire workforces in their new countries. This is costly and takes up time, although when successful it should pay off in the long run. However, when relocations aren’t successful and employees leave, this can cost the company even more time and money with re-hiring and re-training.

It is important for companies to understand that not only will their audience and market be different in another country, but so will be the expectations of their employees. Not understanding these differences in workplace environments may cause a lack of workplace motivation, understanding and eventually may cause people to leave a company.

Here are a few different workplace environments from around the world. Of course, environments and attitudes of countries will differ from company to company, but the overall values and views will be similar, if not the same.  


South Korea

Korea has one of the highest average working weeks and overtime hours in the world. Workplaces are often dictated by hierarchies, with employees expected to stay in the office for as long as the boss does. There are also expectations for employees to form strong trusting relationships which often means gathering after work for drinks or food, all while adhering to the hierarchy. Trusting relationships are seen to motivate people in Korea and are fully encouraged around the workplace. Lasting interpersonal relationships also show an employee's commitment to a company.    

When visitors come to a company it is expected for the host employee to entertain them, even after working hours and on the weekend. This often includes going for drinks after work, sight-seeing and eating out. It is often up to the visitor to decide when they’ve had enough, and only then can the host employee return home. 


The working culture in France is guided by principles of hierarchy, traditions and attention to detail.  

In France, there is a strong desire for a work-life balance. A work-life balance means that employees can spend time with their families, take up hobbies and engage in education as well as enjoying a career. Because of this, it is rare that employees take work home with them to do on the weekends, unless in a very senior position. Overtime is also less common than in other European countries.

Punctuality is treated quite casually in France, although there are some regional differences, the further South a region is, the more casual their approach to time may be. The French have a very relaxed attitude when attending appointments however it is considered rude to be late to social meals. 

 French employees have, on average, fifteen hours a day for leisure activities such as sleeping, eating and relaxing. An evaluation report submitted by the government showed that having reduced working hours has generally affected employees positively, in terms of both their work and home lives. 

The working day is usually broken up by a two-hour lunch break which is spent spending time with families, although in large cities such as Paris this is becoming less common. Shops shut on Sundays and in some smaller towns, they are closed or work significantly reduced hours on Saturdays too. 


In Russia, hierarchy is very important both inside and outside of the workplace however a democratic workplace is favoured where all employees get a voice. Senior leaders may demonstrate a leadership style that is paternalistic and charismatic.

Dressing smart also shows someone’s hierarchy, with men wearing suits to work and women skirts or trousers. The expression ‘time is money’ is becoming more common as people are starting to prefer punctuality rather than flexibility, especially from visitors.   

Working hours in most Russian offices are from 9.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m., Monday to Friday and there is very little business attended to on the weekend or out of hours. Workplace relationships tend to stay professional and meeting up outside of work, although encouraged, is not always common in large companies.  If employees meet up outside of work, they still respect the hierarchy. 



In Germany, workplace hierarchy is highly appreciated and well maintained. Companies tend to have a strong management style, where the highest positions are held by a small group of the most experienced and/or qualified people. Employees are expected to do what they are told, and any decisions made by a senior should be respected. 

Employees have a strong eye and attention to detail, which can often make meetings long although never overrun because punctuality is paramount in the German workplace. As well as punctuality being important, planning is also essential, and meetings are often scheduled weeks in advance.  

In the past, dress codes have been formal and conservative however recently, more contemporary companies have moved towards casualwear. 

Being invited to lunch is common. As a rule, the host will pay for the bill however offering to pay is considered polite. Although small talk is acceptable, light conversations about non-specific topics are preferred when the talk is not focused on business. It is the host that will initiate eating and drinking.  

So what?

Having motivated and happy employees is important for any company to expand and grow successfully. Being able to understand expectations, attitudes and behaviours will help a company adapt to new countries and cultures. As well as this, if employees feel that they are being catered for and are in an environment they feel confident, familiar and comfortable in it is more likely their motivation will be high. Knowing these cultural workplace differences can help companies find the best ways to cater to these different needs and get the most out of their employees and overall their expansions.