Germany Examines Ban on Employees Checking Work Emails at Home
By Andy Eckardt
MAINZ, Germany – Imagine life without the buzz of a smartphone signaling yet another business email after leaving the office.
German employees could soon have legal protection preventing them from dealing with work-related phone calls and email traffic after hours and on weekends.
Labor Minister Andrea Nahles is contemplating introducing “anti-stress” regulations in Europe’s economic powerhouse.
She told the Rheinische Post newspaper that it is “indisputable that there is a connection between permanent availability and psychological diseases.” Government officials are collecting data as part of a push to draft a proposal for lawmakers next year.
Some German companies have already taken voluntary measures.
Volkswagen has capped after-work email for some employees who have been issued company-owned smartphones. For workers under wage agreements, the company’s email server is programmed to stop delivering messages between 6:15 p.m. and 7 a.m. the following morning. Weekends are also off-limits.
“Supervisors and employees regard the regulation as a signal to respect recreation times and to interrupt after-work hours only in emergencies,” Volkswagen spokesman Markus Schlesag told NBC News.
German union officials say that the discussion about after-work emails illustrates a broader problem.
“We see a strong increase of time pressure, multi-tasking requirements and high performance standards,” said Ingo Nuernberger of Germany’s DGB confederation of unions. “And more and more people take work home.”
A recent poll by Germany’s Forsa institute — commissioned by health insurer DAK — found that 52 percent of those polled backed “anti-stress” laws. And seven-in-ten agreed that pressure from emails and calls outside work hours had increased significantly.
“Good and healthy work that can be maintained for a long time is a competitive advantage”