In a surprise move by the German government, guidelines have been released stating protocol on working outside of office hours for ministry officials.
This is not the first initiative of the sort seen out of Germany, large corporations such as Puma, BMW and Volkswagen have used methods to stop their employees from working on free time for some time now.
For example, Volkswagen has programmed it’s servers to stop delivering e-mail to staff, via their servers, 30 minutes after the end of the working day. The other firms encourage their employees to use their weekends to relax and enjoy themselves rather than work and do not penalize employees for not responding on their down time.
These rules have been set in place to preserve the mental health of German citizens following a scare that rattled the region when Swisscom’s chief executive had been reported dead and the cause was suspected suicide. Two months prior to his death, he commented on the problems that over-working an individual can cause saying, “The most dangerous thing that can happen is that you drop into a mode of permanent activity.”
His demise sparked conversation of neglecting the importance on having time to relax.
Over-working employees is something that many employers are guilty of and have no comprehension of the damage it can do to their staff.
The guidelines released by the German government state that ministry employees cannot face any penalties if they do not respond to phone calls or text messages outside of office hours. In addition, managers have been warned not to disturb employees unless the work is urgent and cannot be postponed to the following working day. As a general rule, employers have been advised to approach their employees with the ideology of “minimum intervention” during the staff’s allocated time off.
Labour Minister, Ursula von der Leyen, has explained, “When they have to be available, and when they don’t. They now have this clarity in black and white. It’s in the interests of employers that workers can reliably switch off from their jobs, otherwise, in the long run, they burn out.”
In addition, she openly criticized the power technology has on the average employee and explained that technology is our tool and not the other way around.
This is a growing concern in Germany, and it is likely that many other companies will follow in the footsteps of the Labour Ministry and apply these new guidelines within their own institutions.
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