The German Work Week: What To Expect


In the United States, the line between work and play often blurs. Employees make friends with their coworkers and check emails while they’re with their families. This lifestyle might seem unavoidable – employees must work a certain amount of hours, then to keep up, they stay in touch at home. Germans have figured out a way around this stress overload by making their regular work hours more efficient.

Enforcing the Balance

German employees support a successful economy by working only 35 hours a week, while enjoying 24 vacation days and excellent benefits. How do they do more with less? To them, it’s all about efficiency. A day at the office is for work and nothing else. There’s no web surfing or  chitchatting with coworkers. While the behavior is mostly frowned upon in the United States, employers in Germany are much stricter. Even other employees disapprove of goofing off.

In addition to their focus, German workers value direct communication. They don’t bother with polite banter during meetings or being vague about a request. If they want something done by a certain time, they will tell the employee directly, and they won’t be shy about it. German employees don’t allow distractions into their work day.

Germany work hours

A Home Life Free of Work

A day at the office without any fun might seem dreary, but Germans make up for it by focusing on time off just as much as their work. Germany has some of the most extensive parental leave laws in the world. Workers who have been employed for the previous twelve months qualify for Elternzeit. Among other benefits, this includes up to three years of unpaid leave, with a “sleeping” contract keeping the parent employed. Both parents can even take leave simultaneously. On top of that, during the three years, the parent may work up to 30 hours part-time. They can also choose to put off a year that may be taken later on, until the child turns eight.

There is a flaw in the system. While Elternzeit can apply to either the mother or the father, German mothers stall their careers most often. Males occupy the majority of upper-level executive positions and employers hesitate to hire women.

While progress still needs to be made, Germany has learned to separate work from home life. The government considered banning work emails after 6:00 p.m. This lifestyle is so ingrained that coworkers don’t make an effort to socialize outside of the office. Instead, they connect through a variety of Verein, or clubs. Small villages to big cities have clubs for every interest, from music to sports to hiking.

Working like a German might not be for everyone, but they can teach us lessons about focus and efficiency. Strive to prioritize whenever work starts to feel overwhelming. Cutting out distractions will get the work done faster and lead to more down time later.