Germany bans employers from contacting employees outside of work hours
It has been reported that in July 2013, German born Chief Executive of Swisscom, Carsten Schloter, sadly committed suicide just weeks after providing a candid interview to the Swiss media which provided an insight into the increased pressures and stress he felt caused by modern communication systems. In one media report Mr Carsten said “the most dangerous thing is to fall into a mode of permanent activity”.
In the wake of this tragedy and increasing recognition of the effect modern communication systems are having on our lives, Germany is moving towards restricting employers contacting employees outside of work hours, in a bid to protect and promote mental wellbeing as well as preventing employees suffering undue stress from being constantly on call.
German based companies including Volkswagen, BMW, Puma and Deutsche Telekom have imposed restrictions on after hours contact with staff in order to prevent staff burn out caused by undue stress. Volkswagen in particular, have introduced a policy to stop all emails being forwarded to their staff half an hour before the end of the working day, while other companies have made a declaration that employees will not be penalized for switching off their mobile phones or failing to reply to emails or messages in their own free time.
The German Labour Ministry is now following in the steps of these corporate giants in a bid to protect workers mental health. In a media report Ursula von der Leyen from the Labour Ministry said “it is in the interests of employers that workers can reliably switch off from their jobs, otherwise, in the long run, they burn out.”
Something to think about
With forever increasing technology and the ease with which employers can communicate with their employees it has become generally acceptable to flip an email or send a text to an employee regarding a work related issues after hours. An employee who is absent from work due to stress related illness or because they are burnt out, can result in very costly consequences for an employer through absenteeism, loss of productivity and any associated workers compensation claims that may arise.
With the development of modern communication systems we are becoming permanently engaged and bombarded with emails, tweets, texts and posts. Employers therefore need now more than ever, to recognise that the modern workplace not only demands physical safety but also mental wellbeing. In order to achieve mental wellbeing in the workplace, and to protect employees from the effects of work related stress, employers may need to take the lead and where possible, introduce policies promoting “minimum intervention” into workers’ free time.