Germany mulls ban on after-hours work emails and calls

6 Comments

In the last few years, some German firms such as BMW, Volkswagen and Deutsche Telekom have banned after-hours call and emails to workers – the point being to actually let people take time off in the evening, rather than effectively being half-working all the time.

Now a ban on office communications in the evening and during vacation time could even become law. German labor minister Andrea Nahles said in a Tuesday interview that the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BAuA) was consulting on how such a law could be made – what thresholds would need to be mandated, and so on. She said the first results were expected in 2015.

Earlier this month the labor minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, called for such a law. According to local reports, the smartphone age comes with real burnout risks — quite a few studies will back this up — and unions are pointing out that people are more productive in their uptime when they have proper downtime too.

In my opinion (and in Nahles’s, judging by the interview), this would be a really tough law to formulate and certainly to enforce — the German government needs to navigate a fine line between promoting better mental health and engaging in nanny-statism.

Different kinds of jobs call for different levels of availability, particularly if people have to deal with people in different time zones as part of what they do. At the same time, if you’re continually anticipating work email late into the night, that’s a problem. We all need to unwind regularly.

A lot of this should come down to employer competitiveness – a firm will be more attractive if it promises not to bother you when you have your feet up and a glass of wine by your side. But perhaps there is at least a place for a law ensuring that people have the right to avoid responding to calls and emails when they’re not supposed to be working, without the fear of being penalized.

6 Comments

Joebob

My employer gives me flexibility to do other things during “work hours” such as volunteering at my son’s school. When I take time off during the day I am able to complete my work “after hours.” I wouldn’t want a law taking away these options.

P

The outsources would be under the same guidelines. Unless they outsource to countries without the law.. sounds familiar

Ted

It wouldn’t be necessary to be on call if everyone one else was at home too. Most of our on call issues are with remote access and such. If they aren’t allowed to do then you don’t need to be on call.

MrKamikaze

Would hate to have to run a companies IT shop in Germany! after hours on-call is a necessity.

Ted

It wouldn’t be necessary to be on call if everyone one else was at home too. Most of our on call issues are with remote access and such. If they aren’t allowed to do then you don’t need to be on call.

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