Oct 02, 2014

Should the US follow Germany’s lead and ban work emails after hours?

Germany is considering a law that would make work related emails illegal after 6pm. There are two main justifications for this. First, that there is a correlation between being constantly available to employers and mental illness. Second, these late emails are adding hours of work to daily lives, and often the additional work goes uncompensated. I don’t think that there is any chance of restrictions like this being passed in the US, especially with the current makeup of Congress, but should it be?


It doesn’t matter if we should or should not, it will never happen here. I’ve lived in the US and Europe, although it was the 90s when I was in Germany, and there is a real cultural difference between us. There is much more of an emphasis on the quality of life for workers in Germany - more labor friendly laws, more vacation time, more legally mandated time off, universal health care, etc. The attitude in America is very much sink or swim, and if you don’t like working for an employer that expects you to do work off the clock, quit and get another job (whether that is feasible or not is another question). In fact, in the US 1 in 4 workers do not get any paid vacation or holidays. America is the only developed country that can “boast” of this. Source: Forbes  


To directly answer your question, I’m not really sure that we should impose such a restriction. I do a lot of work late at night because that is when I am most efficient and I can get more work done without interruption. An arbitrary time that limits when I can send emails would not benefit me, it would actually inconvenience me. The American work system is also set up very differently. Many stores in Germany close early and are closed on Sundays (at least that was true when I lived there). It can be hard to get some items if you don’t do it within what is, by American standards, very limited shop hours. I seriously doubt that people in the US are ready to give up the convenience of 24 hour shopping even if it would provide an overall benefit to society.

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