Do We Need a Law Banning Work Emails?

Laptop on a desk

Remember the weekend? Those two days sandwiched between Friday and Monday that half a decade ago was your own private oasis? They were good but weekends now seem to have become the urban myth of our generation – like the sweepstakes in which everyone’s granduncle was involved – because of smartphones. Not only are we all developing minor carpal tunnel thanks to these fandangle objects, but buzzy push notifications have also effectively ruined days off and weekday evenings. You are literally always available – good for emergencies, not so good when work is drilling away at your sanity. However, it seems the Germans are going to really shake things up and reclaim weekends asheir Labour minister is mulling over possible legislation making it illegal to email colleagues after 6pm.

Minister Andrea Nahles has taken a look at studies that explore the psychological effects of this constantly on culture – the studies all say the less hours you spend syncing mails equals healthier workers. Having constant access to their email and smartphones is linked to poor mental health, burn out and interrupted sleep patterns. The introduction of the smartphone has also seen an increase in the average work day – an estimated five hours in some quarters.

Volkswagen tackled the issue of workers never switching off all the way back in 2011 when they stopped their Blackberry servers from sending emails outside office hours. The German legislation that will limit worker’s access to email outside out office hours may come into force as soon as 2016 and make Germany the first country in the world to pass such a broad labour laws. France got in on the act earlier this year when some unions and employers signed an agreement obliging certain sector workers to disconnect after working a set amount of hours.

Anyone up for a new life on the continent?

Follow Jeanne Sutton on Twitter @jeannedesutun

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