not working

by Hayden Stainsby on Saturday, 22 October 2022

In 2020, COVID-19 hit Europe.

But unless you're reading this in the far future, you already knew that.

Like many companies with offices in Germany, mine put many of the staff on Kurzarbeit.

Kurzarbeit means short work in German.

A company reduces the working hours of some of its staff, in my case I went to 4 days a week.

The salary is reduced proportionately, but the German government will fill some of the difference.

In my case, I didn't get a lot filled in, but it was only for 2 months.

And those 2 months were fantastic.

It happened at a fortuitous time for me.

My partner was still on parental leave after our daughter was born.

So I got 3 day weekends with my new family.

But that wasn't the best bit.

Because the German government is paying some of the employees salaries, they have certain expectations.

Employees shouldn't be working more than their (reduced) contracted hours.

Our company took this very seriously.

We had to fill in time sheets for the first time ever.

Not to ensure that we were working our hours, but to ensure that we weren't working over our hours.

And no moving hours or minutes between days.

Strictly 8 hours a day, not a minute more.

We were given strict instructions to not work outside of the hours on our timesheet.

No opening any work application or anything that may be logged.

No reading email.

Definitely no responding.

No reading instant messages.

Definitely no responding.

No logging onto the VPN, which meant we couldn't do anything else anyway.

And then the entire international company was informed.

Staff in Germany cannot respond to communication outside work hours.

Not in the evening, not on the weekend, not even 1 minute after the timesheet said that they stopped working.

Not working outside work hours wasn't the best part of those 2 months of Kurzarbeit.

It was the expectation by the rest of the organization that I wouldn't be working.

If there's one thing you can instill in your organization's culture that will greatly improve employee life, it's that.

Expected that employees aren't working outside their working hours.


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