Why Germans Are Better at Work-Life Balance Than Americans

If you are ever thinking of leaving the United States for a better work-life balance, then Germany should be at the top of your list. In addition to the beautiful landscapes and rich culture, Germany proudly boasts one of the best work-life balances in the world. This makes a move to Germany very attractive for citizens of countries that feel stuck in daily grind of working 10 plus hours a day on top of already long commutes. This enviable work-life balance was not always the case.

Most businesses are not open on Sundays in Germany per law.

At the turn of the century, very few employers in Germany provided their employees with paid time off for holidays, vacation, and illness. That started to slightly change in 1902 when the metal and brewing industries gave three days annual leave to their workers. This started a slow trend of paid time off among other trades and industries throughout the country. As the decades passed, Germans began to value self care, mental health, and a positive work-life balance. A need for a more formal and country-wide holiday plan was growing.

In 1974, Germany’s old Federal Republic introduced the statutory minimum holiday of 18 working days. This was unprecedented at the time, and other countries began to take notice. Citizens of Germany were happier, rested, and more productive at work. In addition to mandatory paid time off for Germany’s workforce, laws were also put into place regarding working hours. Business and shops are not legally allowed to stay open as long as they please. They also must adhere to strict regulation concerning opening and closing hours. On Sundays, most everything is closed in Germany, with the exception of gas stations and bakeries. This also translates into Sundays being non working days for just about everyone on Germany.

Most Germans use their generous paid time off to work on self care and reset themselves to come back to work refreshed.

Today, the laws of paid time off in Germany have only improved. The minimum number of vacation days for German citizens has risen to 24 days. This is in stark comparison to the United States of America, where there are no laws mandating nation wide vacation time. In the United States, employees typically get 10 paid days off after one full year of employment. The generous paid time off laws of Germany directly relate to their strong belief’s of self care. Germans do take work very seriously, but they take with equal weight of being done with it. German companies back this mentality as well, not just the employees. Volkswagen, a German car manufacturer, blocks employees from receiving emails after work hours. The employees will receive these messages the following day during work hours.

In addition to paid time off, Germany also has generous Holiday days off in comparison to other European countries and the United States. There are more public holidays in Germany than any other European country. Most banks, shops and grocery stores are closed on these National Holidays, but most bars and restaurants remain open. Germany proudly boasts a list of approximately 16 paid Holidays off. This is in addition to the 24 paid vacation days.

Germany seems to be a shining example of work-life balance and employee mental health. They believe that being productive is more than just a strong work ethic and long work hours. There is a metaphor they believe in. It states if you are sawing along all day then you will be too tired from all of the sawing to sharpen your saw to be ready for the next day. Maybe the United States could learn a thing or two from Germany and it’s proven success of achieving a healthy work-life balance for it’s people.