As the lines between business and personal life blur like never before, some European nations are drafting laws to ensure employees are allowed some well-earned downtime. In April France introduced a ban on calls and emails outside working hours for all employees, and now an interview with Germany’s Andrea Nahles, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, has hinted that Germany may be preparing to follow suit.
Many studies have concluded that the prevalence of “Bring Your Own Device” working setups, where employees receive work emails and calls on their personal smartphones, leads to increased working hours and, in extreme cases, stress and burnout. It has also been proven that staff are more efficient at work if they enjoy proper downtime outside working hours.
“There is an undeniable relationship between [being overworked] and an increase in mental illness. We have scientific evidence.
“Nevertheless, it is a challenge to implement this law. Therefore, we have the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health investigating whether, and how, it is possible to set load thresholds. We need universal and legally binding criteria before we establish laws for employers.”
Some German companies have already implemented stress-busting rules. Car manufacturer VW, mobile network Deutsche Telekom and the German Labour Ministry itself have banned emails outside working hours, and another German carmaker, Daimler, recently started deleting all emails received by employees when they are on holiday.
However, as Nahles hints at in her interview, such rules would be very difficult to enforce and there would have to be exceptions for extenuating circumstances and emergencies.
Photo by Craig Chew-Moulding