Last week, Germany’s labor ministry passed a law that states that managers cannot contact their employees outside of working hours. This law, which forbids phone calls and e-mails, among other forms of contact, aims to give workers a less stressful environment, and to keep workers from feeling pressured to be constantly on call. Experts from various business schools have called for UK government to follow-up with similar restrictions.
Now, that is all well and good for Europe. However, I would like to point out that this would never work in the United States. Here, we’re all workaholics.
Americans are ambitious, and we’ve been conditioned to be spending brain power on our jobs throughout our entire day. I grew up seeing my dad answering e-mails far after I went to sleep, and on conference calls with other continents way before I ever woke up. What I learned from this was that he really liked his job, and that working hard was able to put him in a great position in his industry, and the perks for that hard work have been great. It’s not just his generation that has this workaholic mentality – I’ve definitely seen it among my fellow millennials as well. We work hard to be able to play hard.
For millennials there’s also an element of convenience that comes into play. We expect to be able to get our work done whenever’s convenient to us, and are less likely to want to be tied to a 9-5 desk job.
I’ve toured ad agencies in cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, Seattle and New York, and I’ve noticed the agencies that excite people my age the most are those that have a flexible work environment. “Sure – work from the cafeteria! Here’s a nap room if you need an afternoon pick-me-up! Fridays are half days in the summer!” If we want to grab a long lunch with a friend, we know that we can just stay at work an hour later to make up for it.
We’ve grown up with our phones in our hand, able to answer e-mails when we want to. We’ve become accustomed to bringing our school or work projects home with us to finish on our couches (or at the bar across the street from the office).
Does Europe have it right? Should Americans work on learning when to work and when to put our energy into other elements of our lives?