Work Life Balance: Things We Need to Learn From Germany! 

Job & Career by  Harsha Sharma 10 July 2024 Last Updated Date: 12 July 2024

Work Life Balance

Hello! No, that’s not a typo, but a demonstration of how cheerful the German “hello” sounds. I wonder if it’s because of the great work life balance they foster? Or is it the amazing view and the delectable food? Makes you think, huh! Whichever’s your pick, you’ll agree that they have set a standard across different sectors.

The one that stands out the most is their work culture. If their lifestyle wasn’t envious enough, word has spread about their wonderfully balanced work life! Why am I suddenly talking about their work life? Adults who have a good work life balance are said to have better outcomes in the long run.

Think of improved mental and physical health, a positive outlook toward work, and better relationships in their life. These are just some of the advantages that Germans enjoy. (I aim to achieve it, too!)

Find out more below!

Article at a Glance

  • Germany has an act that strictly prioritizes employees’ well-being.
  • Work life balance does not originate in Germany, yet it boasts a healthy one!
  • Working on Sundays and public holidays is prohibited.
  • Leaves (both sickness and holidays) are not frowned upon. Be it your child or yourself, you are encouraged to take time off for recovery.
  • Ways we can restore a work life balance for ourselves
  • Make sure your CEO reads this article!

What is Work Life Balance? A Look at its History

Work life balance does not originate in Germany, but they’re a prime example for the world to follow. The phrase “Work life balance” finds its roots in the UK during the 1980s when the Women’s liberation movement was in full swing.

Picture this: it is the late stages of the Industrial Revolution, and you work six days a week. Overworking has become the norm, and people are out working for 14-16 hours at a stretch. Women find it difficult to manage their homes and provide for the family.

While their husbands are either struggling to do the same or have been lost to the war or mafia. This was when British women were working unjustified hours, which had a significant effect on their health and well-being.

Meanwhile, in the West, the US has found that their workers toil away for 100 hours per week, which is bringing serious ill effects for them. From mental health to physical ailments, they are queuing up at the doctors with many issues. Most of the time, it all relates to their work.

Only in 1940, after decades of countless movements, the Fair Labor Standards Act gave the workers their time back. The amendment of this Act is how the current US corporate life enjoys a 40-hour work week. That may change only by a small margin.   

Managing work and personal life came much later for them and now for us. The battle they won is now lost by most of the working class worldwide because we are struggling to keep a healthy work-life balance.

The US and UK working professionals are also in the same boat. We’re all looking at the shiny work life balance of the Germans to sail our boat. Ready to dig deep?

Work Life Balance: the Driving Force Behind Germany’s Economic Success and Global Position

The German Work of Hours Act is an example of countries struggling to boost their economic standing and employee satisfaction. This Act is the stepping stone towards achieving the state that Germany is in, with its working-class happy, healthy, and thriving. Quite literally, maintaining all three effortlessly.

The law does not allow anyone working in Germany to toil away at their computers for more than 8 hours daily. Most companies follow a standard 48-hour work week, with only a few extending this.

“Huh! So much for a healthy work-life balance for everyone.” That’s what I thought when I first came across this information.

Those working in the latter companies receive compensation for the extra working time. Think of monetary compensation for holidays they can enjoy with their loved ones or solo (if that’s their vibe.)

How is Germany Paving the Way for Work Life Balance?

A BBC documentary quickly became a source of enlightenment when I discovered the work ethics the German counterparts follow. Making me a German does not just highlight how different the German lifestyle is. It also enlightens their sense of responsibility.

At Work, One Works

There’s a lot the employees receive. From prohibition on working Sundays and public holidays to being given compensatory time off in the following week in exchange.  It’s clear that the Act does not just make employees who are not working in Germany envious; it encourages a similar work culture worldwide.

Not just the government but the citizens want to make the economy better by fulfilling their responsibilities. The employees have laser-focus on their work, devoid of gossip, trolling, or discussing personal lives. That should be a refreshing change for the rest of the world!

Employee Resource groups in Germany and most other companies around the world help resolve any difficulties that the workforce is facing. At their center is a sense of community, culture, career, and commerce that aligns with the company’s objective/vision.

Prioritizing Uality Work Over Quantity

Unlike most countries, the work-life in Germany focuses on hard work and dedication to the task. This becomes easier when the employee feels valued, which automatically ignites the need to work diligently.  

The work culture in Germany is praise-worthy as it promotes community. It directs the focus on teamwork and cooperation, which most corporate cultures lack worldwide.

Flexibility to Work

Covid-19 plays a crucial role here as well. As with most other countries, Germany made a few changes to corporate operations after the global pandemic. It did not perfect the balance until organizations introduced the idea of more flexible work schedules.

Remote work is looked down upon by most companies around the world, and Germany takes pride in this flexibility. Germany allows employees to work remotely to fulfill their responsibilities as well.

This allows work-life integration which can make it easier for the employee to manage their work while simultaneously having personal time.

Its Consequences…

If you have a professional career where you physically or even mentally contribute, you’ll notice overworking hardly fuels self-motivation. This is exactly what German companies understand. Alternatively, saying that the German government understands wouldn’t be wrong either.

The conclusions that can be drawn from the German way of corporate life, thus, are:  

  • Flexible work arrangements for the employees result in improved employee satisfaction.
  • Companies benefit from an increase in productivity, job satisfaction across levels, and a quality that is unmatched.
  • Employers in Germany see higher employee retention due to the work life balance and the prioritization of their wellbeing.
  • The world has a lot to learn from the work ethics of Germany.

How can You Achieve A Work Life Balance?

Bringing change at an organizational level is hard unless you are a CEO reading this article. (Happy for your employees as they are about to experience a positive change to their routine.) To avoid the negative impacts of a poor work life balance, here’s what can be changed (or at least hoped):

  1. Finding a balance: When you aim to improve your work life balance, you cannot expect to find a resolution out of the blue. You should start by trying what works for you. This will involve a lot of trial and error. This will all form a part of mastering the art of first-time management of your work life. Moreover, you do not need a degree in management to manage your time well and nail that work-life balance.
  1. Finding support: It will be a very important part of your fight against a poor work life balance. As mentioned above, unless you are a part of the upper management that can make actual change, you can only aim to start small. One way to do this is by starting a conversation about work-life balance at work. You can start with its negative impact, taking it forward to show the live cases in the office.
  1. Take time off to take care of yourself: At least a dozen studies emphasize taking rest to improve functionality. Just as the body needs to rest after an intense workout, an employee needs to take a rest. As per a study, when employees rest and take time to manage their stress, they are more likely to exhibit better performance.
  1. Follow a strict “work-only” policy when in office: Take a leaf from the corporate German book to establish boundaries. If the boundary between personal and professional life blurs, you must reinstate your preference to maintain it. (That’s what this author does!) It may seem rude, but you must have a stress-free work environment.

These four are essentials for the work life balance starter kit, which is influenced by the German work ethic and culture. So, wait no more. Take your first step to establishing a healthy work-life balance with the help of these suggestions.

Conclusion

Work life balance should not feel far-fetched now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the German way of working. One of the most popular lifestyles worldwide, this example of working can also help you fulfill your personal commitments.

You must remember to take that first difficult step which can start your journey to a healthy work life balance. Yes, not dreading going to work is possible!

So, apply whatever seems easiest first and start your journey to finding that 9-5 Zen. Comment below on your take on the German work-life balance. Is there more to their secret of a happy life?

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Harsha Sharma

Harsha is a seasoned writer and a huge advocate of self-care. Having completed years in the corporate sector, she’s on a quest to share her experience with the world. Whether it’s about The Daily Grind or the act of putting Mind over Matter, she’s free to share her ultimate recipe to nail the 9 to 5 life (and the life beyond.) While free from nailing her writing deadlines, she often finds herself following REAL trends, current affairs, facts, trivia, and entertainment. And when it comes to a life beyond 9 to 5, she can guide you on what to read, binge, and hype for!

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