The UK may have one of the largest European economies, but Europe’s greatest economic powerhouse is Germany – and if your business does not already have business links with Germany, now may be a good time to build them.
Of course, it helps to get your team on board with a big shift in business territory, especially if you might send staff over to set up an overseas office or negotiate your own future trading partnerships. In this article, we look at some of the appealing features of the world of work in Germany – including its excellent work–life balance.
Introducing a language-learning opportunity
One of the most engaging reasons to consider a move to Germany – or developing deeper relationships with German partners – is the opportunity to encourage your colleagues to learn German. Language learning is a multi-layered process that brings numerous personal and professional benefits to your employees, ranging from increased focus and decision-making skills to a decreased risk of dementia.
Language learning is also an excellent team bonding exercise – your colleagues will be able to share the highs and lows of your new business venture while trading language-learning tips. When your team is ready to make the move to increased hours in Germany – or even living there – the camaraderie will help to enhance the success of the venture too.
Improving work–life balance
One word that defines German workplace culture is ‘Feierabend’, which refers to both the end of the working day and the act of switching off from the working day. Feierabend is taken very seriously in Germany – in addition to its close neighbour, the ‘Feierabendbier’!
Germany’s approach to achieving a balance between work and leisure time may be the ultimate driver for your employees, who will be working in a culture that is successful and productive while at the same time encourages employees to take time out from the office. Unemployment is low in Germany as well, and while these facts suggest a work-heavy work life, the opposite seems to be true.
Yes, the workplace culture in Germany involves plenty of hard work, but people work less hours and they genuinely switch off to enjoy their free time – in fact, it is mandatory for all employees (with very few exceptions) to take an uninterrupted 11-hour break every day. Sick leave is not a taboo concept either – as Ulrich Juergens at the Berlin Social Science Centre says, ‘When you are sick, you are sick’ (or, in German: ‘Wenn man krank ist ist man krank’). Nobody wants the office cold – and this is topical advice in the time of COVID-19.
Somehow, Germany seems to have solved the productivity puzzle. By encouraging people to work hard when they are at work and then switch off properly when they are at home or on holiday, people in Germany are driving their economy forward on fewer working hours than many other countries.
German workers also tend to enjoy a sociable lunch hour, rather than being hunched over their desks with an unappetising sandwich for company. Lunch is often referred to as ‘Mahlzeit’ (a word that seems to serve many a purpose in the German working day, but ultimately is a marker of an employee’s free time). Working hard and playing hard appears to be embedded in Germany’s workplace culture.
Encouraging a digital detox
It may sound hard to believe, but the 11-hour break from work often extends to the digital sphere as well. It is quite difficult to enforce, but for the most part German companies want you to spend your free time doing your own thing rather than checking your emails or managing the department’s Twitter feed.
Some companies have even taken the extreme measure of switching off emails altogether overnight to stop employees from feeling the need to check in on their own time. Volkswagen and BMW are among the many companies in Germany that have instituted shutdown periods for email, and many others also enforce the right of employees to be inaccessible by email during holidays.
Most of us have found ourselves caught up in a workplace crisis while supposedly enjoying a well-earned, restful holiday – how wonderful it would be if people felt genuinely supported in switching off all mobile devices for the duration of their evenings – and, indeed, their holidays.
While the UK is busy figuring out its trading relationship with the EU, your company could start looking at ways to open up new partnerships of your own. If Germany seems to be a good fit for your business, we can certainly recommend its working culture – and if your business is interested in investing in language learning, we would be happy to help you with those plans.
Contact SIMON & SIMON today to find out more about our bespoke language training services so that we can help your team find its feet in a new country.