Why the Relaxed Viennese Attitude to Work Is Actually Very Productive

Vienna’s impressive artistic and musical heritage, historic architecture and cosy coffee houses make it a popular city
Vienna’s impressive artistic and musical heritage, historic architecture and cosy coffee houses make it a popular city | © trabantos / Shutterstock
Photo of Culture Trip
26 February 2018

Whilst Londoners and New Yorkers are known for their ‘sleep when you’re dead’ attitude when it comes to work, you generally won’t find the people of Vienna waking up at the crack of dawn to crunch numbers. We take a look at why it might be wise to take a leaf out of their book…

Coffee house culture

As with much of Vienna’s history, everything leads back to coffee in one way or another. Although Austrians didn’t actually invent the Viennese cafés, they are a vital part of the city’s identity, acting as meeting places for some of the most creative and productive minds in the 19th century – Freud, Mozart and Klimt to name a few. They are also likely the reason why the city has developed a reputation for having a healthy work-play balance, continuing to be perfect places for mulling things over, with their relaxed yet lively atmosphere, described most aptly as ‘temporary worlds within the ordinary world’. It’s common to see a business person settling down with a coffee and cake after work, usually not too late in the day.

A traditional Viennese waiter | Courtesy of the Vienna tourist board
Inside Cafe Central | Courtesy of the Vienna tourist board


While we’re talking about the city of Freud, it is vital that we explore the psychology behind the theory that less equals more. This idleness has not led to complacency. Austria’s capital has been voted the city with the best quality of life numerous times, boasting a good economy and effective social system, so we can assume they are doing something right. According to studies, idleness is in fact a factor that helps to boost creativity, as it allows our subconscious mind to take over, which can result in ‘creative breakthroughs’. Philosopher Bernard Russell was a fan of the idea that working less could lead to more productivity, theorising in his essay In Praise of Idleness that shorter work days would result in a reduction in unemployment and an increase in happiness.

The sleepy hills around the city | Courtesy of the Vienna Tourist Board | © Austrian Tourist Board

If coffee houses and idleness are the recipe for success and living well, perhaps it is time other cities followed suit?

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