If measures to keep employees’ daily working hours were relaxed, this would mean additional burdens for employees, in the form of overtime. Work-life balance would suffer, as would rest, which is important for health. Already, almost half of all employees have problems completely switching off from work.
Employees whose working hours are flexible or linked to projects and deadlines are particularly affected. Stress-related illnesses such as burnout would then no longer be a rarity. About two years ago, the European Court of Justice called for the legal implementation of company working time records. Employees in the home office in particular would work twice as much overtime as if their working hours were recorded. This was the finding of a recent study by the Hans Böckler Foundation.
Things like multitasking, agile and mobile working, international networking and ever-digital accessibility will make it more difficult in the future to switch off completely from work in the private environment. The Hans Böcker Foundation sums up the situation and makes it clear that working time depends on both a strong Working Time Act and Occupational Health and Safety Act as well as transparent and binding working time recording in the company.
Politics and the Working Time Act
Politically, there are quite different views on the topic of the Working Time Act. The Greens, the SPD and the Left Party are calling for employees to have more control over their working hours, while the FDP is aiming to relax the Working Hours Act to allow longer daily working hours. This would be necessary to keep up with international competition.
What do studies show?
Studies show that it can have positive results if employees have a say in their time and attendance. This has a positive effect on their private and professional lives. Of course, it can also have the opposite effect. If employees work in a home office and people want to be available at all times, this can have a negative impact on the work-life balance.
Flexible working often becomes a problem in companies when only a small number of staff are available. Project work and tight deadlines also make flexible working hours difficult. According to studies, people whose working hours are determined by deadlines work about 3.5 hours more per week.
Project work is a problem
Employees whose working hours are determined by projects and deadlines often tend to work several hours of overtime because they are ostensibly driven by their own commitment. Project goals that are set too high are often an indication of overtime. Many employees tend to work evenings or weekends in order to achieve the desired goals and workload. After all, a project usually has deadlines to meet.
According to a survey, only 44 to 49 of employees in project work can completely switch off in their free time and not think about work. Among people who are not dependent on project work and deadlines, it is still 55 to 63 percent who can at least switch off to a large extent after a party. For mothers in particular, unregulated working hours and overtime represent a major burden, as they also have to invest a large amount in childcare.
A legal obligation to record working hours, as has already been developed by the ECJ in 2019, is now essential to protect employees from overtime and unregulated working hours, he said. In this context, there must be a limit on the maximum daily working hours and sufficient rest periods must be made possible