Ger­many bans employ­ers from con­tact­ing employ­ees out­side of work hours

In Brief

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.

The Facts

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.