Germany Considers Ban on After Hours Work Emails

Source: Law Street

By 

I’m sort of a walking stereotype. I have my phone in my hand at all times, I sleep with it in my bed even though I know that’s bad, and I’m constantly checking my texts, social media, and email. And that’s never really bothered me — it seems normal to me. I am used to being accessible essentially 24/7. I think that’s a norm that a lot of us Americans have gotten used to, and I doubt that that’s going to change, but apparently some of our European friends have started rejecting the concept of 24/7 connectivity.

Germany is considering a law to ban work-related emails after hours. The potential legislation is being pushed by labor unions, and recently the German Labor Minister Andrea Nahles ordered a study to look into the negative effects of work-related stress. While that study isn’t done yet, and legislation won’t even be proposed until those findings are released, Nahles stated,

There is an undeniable relationship between constant availability and the increase of mental illness. We have commissioned the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to work out whether it is possible to set load thresholds. We need universal and legally binding criteria.

Germany actually isn’t the first country to consider a late-night work email ban. Earlier this spring there were rumors that France had passed a similar law. France’s restrictions on work are actually very interesting already. Most workers are limited to a 35-hour work week. There’s actually no law restricting work emails after business hours, but there was an agreement signed earlier this year with some unions and employers agreeing to not contact employees outside of work hours.

So, if Germany and France are considering these email restrictions, will something similar ever make it to the U.S.? Nah, probably not.

A lot of it has to do with German and French culture in comparison to American. For many, the dominating idea in the United States is that the more you work, the more productive you are. Often employees who stay late are viewed as going the extra mile, while those who rush out the door at 5:00 are not as valued. But what a lot of people forget is that more work doesn’t necessarily mean more productivity.

 

The culture in nations like Germany and France is different though. In those countries, needing to stay after to finish your work creates the impression that you’re not productive enough during the day to finish your work in the time allotted. Thomas C. Kohler, a German legal expert explained, saying:

With Germans, while they’re at work, they only work — you’ll rarely hear a radio in the background. They consider it a sign of inefficiency if you cannot complete a day’s work in that day. So if you’re staying late at the office, it would often be regarded as a sign of your inability to get the work done.

So while some of our peer nations have shorter work weeks and are now moving toward no work emails after hours, I doubt it’s going to happen in the United States anytime soon. It would require too big of a cultural shift, and we Americans are just a little too attached to our smartphones.

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