Nein Nachrichten: Germany Reportedly Considering Ban On Work Emails After 6 pm

Coat_of_arms_of_Germany.svg150px-(at).svgI have often praised Germany for its forward-leaning laws on the environment and other areas. However, Germany is following France in a move that I consider perfectly absurd: a ban on after-hours work emails. I will confess to attaining some Chicago school economic bias against certain forms of tax and regulatory policy. However, this is one area where the market should be left to its devices, literally.

In fairness to Germany, there is research that emails are adding as much as five extra hours to the average worker’s day. However, I have seen that research in the past and I am less than convinced. It is true that emails come in at all hours. However, few require any action. Indeed, as a practicing lawyer, I now get (and send) emails at all times of the day (including some from federal courts now), including on weekends. However, these emails are often placeholders for action later. I do not mind it. Indeed, it lets me know what is coming and what will have to be addressed. When I send a late email to a litigation team, they know that I am just sending it (because I have told them so) to put it into the mailbox (rather than wait and try to remember to send the email on Monday). However, in litigation, we do on occasion have to work 24/7 to make a filing. Those periods are well known and long anticipated.

The point is that this is an area that is ill-suited for government regulation. Every business faces different challenges and realities. The market can influence how businesses operate. Companies with reputations for over-working employees will tend to have a greater attrition rate and few applicants. Some companies actively market their lifestyle choices and policies.

Germany however is considering a ban on any work emails after 6 pm. This is based on research commissioned by the German minister for Labour, Andrea Nahles, also found a relationship between workers having constant access to their emails and poor mental health.

The model for such legislation could not be worse: France. France has long been viewed as one of the least efficient or inviting countries for business. In addition to taxing its businesses out of existence, France has an array of laws that shackle businesses in firing employees, setting workplace policies and other limitations. Last year, they reportedly added a law requiring workers to turn off their smartphones after 6pm. However, the Economist did an article stating that no such law actually exists and that the story was misreported. In reality, there was an agreement for a small part of the workforce that dealt with workers who had worked extended shifts.

I am very sympathetic with motives of the German ministry if, in fact, it is moving to deal with this problem as reported. This seems a real problem, but a ban is not the solution. Indeed, this would seem a good area for the government to act as educator and work with businesses to encourage internal policies — rather than impose a single cutoff regulation on after-hour email use.

Source: Time

57 thoughts on “Nein Nachrichten: Germany Reportedly Considering Ban On Work Emails After 6 pm”

  1. We agree on the Brits and northern Ireland. So, I guess I don’t need to “reread my history books” on that topic. LOL!

  2. Paul, You fashion yourself Mr. History here. It is self appointed. Like yourself, I was also a history teacher. And, almost all the books I read are historical. You are arguing that we didn’t soundly defeat Germany. Is my saying “kick their ass” the problem. OK, I amend my remarks to “soundly defeat.” You engage in ludicrous debates and this is one of them. I don’t do ludicrous.

  3. This type of micromanaging law by a centralized government is always going to fail. As the Professor said, each industry and each department within that industry has different communication needs. In addition each person within those departments will have work ethics that are at various levels.

    Sometimes an email, even after 6pm is urgent. What if the email was sent to you by an overseas department and arrives after 6pm. Ignore it? Wait until morning. Hey…..maybe Hillary and Obama can use this as a Bengazi excuse. It was after 3 am!. Although most emails are likely not urgent at all and can be ignored until the next work day this should be a judgement call by the employee.

    REQUIRING workers to answer emails long past their official work hours is something that should be avoided at all costs. Living with your business 24/7 can just wear you down. I can attest to this on a personal level.

    We get phone calls at all hours and since the business line also rings in the house, it is annoying. Some are emergencies (people out of water, pump failed, burst pip, water everywhere) and others are not emergencies or have been long standing problems that the client decided at 7:30 on Saturday needed to be fixed. (Really, you are calling me NOW to tell me you have a slow leak in the shower???) Throw in all the robo political calls, the google ad calls, the offers of business financing…….it never stops.

    So….turn off the ringers, let it go the answering machine at 6:30 so we can eat, watch a movie, talk to each other and have some peace and quiet. We also lock the gate at the road so that people won’t just drive up and knock on our house door. Sheesh. We need to have a life!!!

  4. Amazing, the incivility. What if someone said Irish and Italian shouldn’t “breed”?

  5. I won’t be an Ugly American and fix your verb tense. Although the nuns taught me to conjugate French verbs until my head would spin.

  6. Obama is not only micromanaging. He’s telling the enemy what we will and won’t do. A CIC takes NOTHING off the table in his arsenal when he goes to war. NOTHING. ISIS will use ANY weapon they get their hands on and they need to know we will also. Panetta is ripping Obama a new a-hole in his book coming out.

  7. Paul, We kicked their ass. You are one obstinate, contrarian man. Irish and German should not have been allowed to breed. It’s the Irish that makes you obstinate. Remember, the Irish have this strange superiority complex. These are people that don’t even rule their own little island. The German in you just doesn’t allow you to accept that your people got their asses kicked. We bombed them back to the stone age. They sent 6 saboteurs over here that were caught and executed within months. And, we kicked their ass in the Great War. We piled on afterward which was stupid. Now, stop this Irish/German nonsense!

    1. Nick – the Republic of Ireland exists and it is only Northern Ireland were the hated British enslave the Irish that the Irish do not control a part of their island. If the English had an ounce of humanity they would give it back to the Irish Republic and take back the hated Scots and English who were imported during the plantation of James I.

      Again. You need to re-read the history books. And I am not sure who the ‘we’ you speak of is?

    1. Nick – I agree on the Obama comment. Since he is micromanaging the targets it reminds of of LBJ doing the same and we all know how well he did.

  8. Emails changed the way I did business and in almost all positive ways. I worked 16 hour days. Sending emails late @ night and early in the morning were no problem for my clients. Indeed, I had some workaholic attorney clients who did he same. PHONE CALLS @ all hours are a problem but emails do not require one to read or reply if received late @ night. Even some control freak clients I had realized that a late night email would not be responded to until the next day. There’s a reason we kicked the German’s ass in 2 wars.

    1. Nick – we never got on German soil during WWI and we didn’t kick their ass as much as everybody kicked each others asses. WWII was decided when Hitler decided he was a better general than his General Staff. He was the best general we had. It is hard not to win when you have the other sides game plan.

  9. The old society managing society thing versus let the chips fall where they may, if it ain’t broke why fix it, it will sort itself out, etc……. If the proof is indeed in the eating then?????

  10. Most Germans seem to love their country’s approach to the worker, perhaps we could learn something here. Happy worker equals more protective worker? Less workers going postal is a “good thing” as Matha Stewart says.

  11. Lloyd Blankfien – my wife works for a major banking institution where she gets an excellent healthcare policy (cadillac) and 35 days of vacation every year. Besides her SS she has a pension she contributes to that they match dollar for dollar to a certain amount each year. She can contribute over that, but they do not match. And when they have to get rid of an employee’s job, they spend at least the next year trying to find them another spot in the bank with an equal salary or wage.

  12. I am of two minds on this matter. If you are a non-salaried employee, then yes, no emails, unless you are clocking overtime for them. If you are salaried then send away, you are always on the clock.

  13. Those worker-centric, backward French. Suffering the dehumanizing pain of good wages, mandatory 6 week vacations, single payer healthcare, social security, worker insurances, and other devastating worker abuses….

    On the other hand, there’s that US corporate-centric system of no vacation, low wages, confusing and highly expensive healthcare for some, social security you can starve by, and a continued destruction of the worker safety net.

    When will those French learn to treat workers like they do in the US!!!

  14. To all the after hours fix it guys. 40 hour work week? Nope. 60hrs? Nope. Try 100hrs!

    Not only the after hours emails, but also paging and phone calls, 24x7x365.

    Possible lawsuits? Yep. Sample this:

    Family of nurse killed in car crash after she fell asleep at the wheel following 12 hour shift sue hospital for ‘working her to death’
    • Beth Jasper died March 16, 2013 returning from a 12-hour night shift at Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio
    • Her husband is now suing the hospital for ‘working her to death’
    • He claims that under staffing at the hospital made his wife stressed and fatigued which led her to fall asleep behind the wheel
    • She left behind two children, a 6-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter

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