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. bettykath, I am laughing about your story of being in Germany and the person you were there to work with took his vacation. That is so typical! I hope you didn´t take it personally. Vacations are sacred here. I´ve heard of people missing close family members´ funerals because they were scheduled to go on vacation. If you get sick while on vacation, you can get a doctor´s note and have that time changed to sick leave so as not to miss out on vacation time. Birthdays are also sacred. If it is your birthday, expect uninvited visitors (they will bring a gift). You should have plenty of food and drinks available. Applies to the office as well. You are expected to bring cake or sandwiches if it is your birthday. The only socially accepted way to get out of the birthday obligations is if you are on…….vacation!

  2. Paul….Lois Lerner was level 3 SES….don’t need to see much more than that to figure out how it happens 🙂

    As for the IT folk in much of government today…can you say “Lockheed-Martin?” Never mind the schmuck outfits that brought us weenie Snowden.

  3. bettykath …. your idea for sick days and vacation days, aka called “use or lose,” is de rigueur for federal employees under the civil service “general schedule”….e.g., employees GS-01 to GS-15.

    SES?…Can’t speak for those toads….one and all are political appointees, thus removing three grades (GS-16, 17 & 18) from civil service political protection back in the 1970’s. Somehow the SES toads acquired merit service board coverage…why, because political!! I never met more than 1 in 10 SES who had an iota of knowledge of the fields they oversaw. But they all had good knee pads.

    1. Aridog – you have to watch the job interview on The IT Crowd to see how they got their job. It will all come clear then. 🙂

  4. DBQ, Being a fellow self employed person, we are the rocks of this economy. No benefits, no Holidays, no vacation, pay double social security, work 80 hour weeks, and we don’t whine.That’s for govt. union employees w/ obscene benefits.

  5. Back on topic…”work emails” after hours…how about those same emails after retirement…like 8 years ago? My most recent pair were today about 4 hours ago. Know what? I do not mind. I took an oath long ago and was paid well for the time I served…if I can assist those coming on behind me, I am fine with that. I don’t want to be paid further (dumb, I know) and believe it or not, what I do voluntarily is technically illegal at the federal level, thanks to the Anti-Deficiency Act. Go figure.

    I refused a “sub-contract” in nice 6 figures simply because I want my time invested to be voluntary, not commanded. It isn’t that I am rich, far from it. Just that I learned what I did over 40+ years while being paid to learn, know, and execute. The folks coming up behind me today have impediments in their way that I did not have, brought on by dick-brains like Manning and Snowden. I was queried a couple years ago about my authorship of a few databases found on servers here and there…I explained fully and offered to assist them in re-activating same….given that my devices were “readers” that accommodated 4 global databases without compromising any of them, allowing one click access to answers in stead of 4 separate sign-ins and doing all consolidation manually. In short, what I used, and several others (like some 300+) did as well, saved about 6 hours out of any 8 every day. Sounds good? The new modern Army decided it was too risky…thank you Snowden and Manning….you sniveling whiny little punks.

    In short, there are good reasons for after hours, heck after years, emails. You don’t want them? Okay, do NOT answer them. Simple. For a few of us I guess, work was a painful pleasure. Call us masochists or whatever. The idea was to be productive and effective. Period.

  6. Early posts suggest that 12 hours a day and falling asleep at the wheel translates to working to death. That’s 12 hours for time off, including comuting. Many people work 12 hours by choice, including self employeds like me. 14 hours, 16 hours, more than once a week could take that label. If 12 hours off is not enough for all needs, okay, but its enough to get enough sleep if you manage your time correctly.

  7. And the likes of banksters Jamie Dimon, Lloyd Blankfien and ilk had exceptional representation form Eric Holder and Barack Obama….

  8. Paul, right you are. Both OJ and GZ had attorneys who took every advantage of police and prosecutorial incompetence

    1. bettykath – I am sure they will be glad to hear that you think they are incompetent. 😉

  9. Paul, I’m am glad that you have found that exceptional someone. Now if we could all find some exceptional representation!

    1. Lloyd Blankfien – both OJ and George Zimmerman found exceptional representation.

  10. Jerry, This sort of thing could be fixed by a policy of sick days and vacation days used or lost each year.

  11. I’ll never forget a simultaneous retirement of a city police chief and head of detectives.
    Big pension payouts, cashed in all unused sick days and vacation days. And almost bankrupted the city budget. The IT guys deleted all the unread emails.

  12. We are self employed Vacation???? What is that? Sick days? Paid Holiday? Don’t make me laugh.

    On the other hand, when you get mad at the boss I guess we canjust stand in the bathroom, look in the mirror and yell at ourselves. We also can’t be fired from our jobs. So I guess we have that going for us.

  13. If I have lots of stuff to read (and don’t print it), I would much rather read it at home with my shoes off. Sitting in a comfortable chair and a beverage in my hand. I’m not angry reading this way, so the documents start with a positive attitude. And I remember things read this way far better than in a noisy office.

  14. Paul C. Schulte your wife is the exception, not the rule. It like saying, I don’t have the flu, so no one else has the flu. And since since works for a major bank that was probably gifted billions of fed dollars, Do those chirping at that bank thank corporate welfare, since it wasn’t free market capitalism that bailed them out.

    Average vacation in US after four years of work is 8 days., but tha nearly doubles to 15.7 days after 25 years. So in 25 years, the average US worker will receive 3 weeks vacation after 25 years while the average French worker receives 6 week from the start.

    Some 82 percent of union members have access to traditional pensions, compared with 21 percent of nonunion employees.

    Like I said, Paul, your wife is he exception, not the rule….

    1. Lloyd Blankfien – let’s just say my wife is exceptional and leave it at that. 😉

  15. Actually this is the most used goodbye-phrases amongst work colleagues: “Schonen Feierabend!” (again, umlaut on the ‘o’)

  16. Productivity and profits are at a record high for industry. Why is that?

    BTW Paul, if your wife gets 35 days a year vacation then she must be working at least 10 years at her place of employment. Most “line” workers would never see that much time-off (with pay.)

  17. From the article linked to by Larche Osborne-Simmons,

    “In fact, there was no new piece of French legislation, but a labour agreement signed on April 1st by unions and employers in the high-tech and consulting field. It covers an estimated 250,000 “autonomous employees”, whose contracts are based on days worked, not hours, and so the 35-hour working week limit does not apply. The agreement does refer to an “obligation to disconnect communications tools”, but only after an employee has worked a 13-hour day. Such workers may work into the weekends too, but must be allowed to have one day off in every seven (24 hours + 11 hours). Nowhere does the agreement refer to a 6pm cut-off. By the standards of most French labour contracts, which have to apply the 35-hour working week, it is unusually liberal, and was designed to help global companies that deal across different time zones.”

    I expect the German unions and employers may be working on a similar agreement.

    I’ve had experience working in Germany and Holland. I worked with salaried people and had contact with hourly people (at least based on how we paid for similar positions). They were very serious about leaving at quitting time and taking their vacations. In one trip, my time there was extended b/c the person I needed to work with was scheduled for vacation and he took it. When I was in Japan I frequently had to contact technical people in the US. Emails make the job so much easier. I’d send the email during regular hours, the techs would respond during regular hours, I’d read the response the next day.

  18. Obama doesn’t answer emails or phones when he’s golfing or at the fund raisers. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t. I think phone calls go to voice mail. Emails go to the spam filter.

    And then get deleted.

    1. Jerry – and he doesn’t take intelligence briefings most of the time. So what does he do with his time besides golf and play pick up basketball? Meet with Lois Lerner?

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