Good bye, Nine to Five

Regulated working hours? That was yesterday. According to recent studies, more and more Germans work at evenings, nights and weekends, too. And even in their spare time, they are more stressed than ever. A reason for that are the so called social networks that take the term “social” to the absurd.

Written by Jens Kügler

Always available: 29 percent of all Germans are accessible for their bosses in the after hours. This was revealed by a study which was well-intentionally named “Future Health” and carried out by the a health insurance together with a foundation called “The Health Workers”. And the sickening figures roundabout turns faster and faster: 26 percent of all employed persons regularly continued to work between 6 and 11 PM in 2014. In 1992, those were only 15 percent. The study revealing these results was also given a euphemistic name: “Quality of work – Making money and other things that count,” brought to us the Federal Statistical Office. 26 percent of all interviewed people said in 2014 they would also work on Saturdays and 14 percent on Sundays. Back in 1992 the weekend-too-workers were only 20 respectively ten percent.

Attention: the average workweek declined from 38.2 hours in 1992 to 35.3 hours in 2014! So is it all just whining? No: This “35-hour week” (the 35-hour week was a popular claim of Germany’s trade unions in the 1980ies) was only due to the many modern part-time jobbers. According to the Federal Statistical Office, their share doubled in the last two decades from 14 to 28 percent. And it does not help anyone to mention that the statisticians suggest a reason for the increase of part-time jobs in the longer store opening times. What about another long and tiring number? One in eight full-time employed persons work 48 hours or more per week. These are mainly the self-employed and the managers who thereby curtail their necessary leisure and regeneration time. Health? Compensation? Family? You have to set priorities …

Stop: A buzzword of today is flexible working hours. More and more companies leave it to their employees to decide when and even where they work. In the digital age, the office merges with the living room by notebooks, and the data is drawn from the cloud. What does that actually mean: Where once there were accurate attendance clocks, today there are endless working time accounts. Employee representatives warn that companies use the temporal and spatial freedoms solely for their own benefit––virtually for a worst-life balance. Nice for the sought-after Generation Y people who will have to work for a longer time in life because of demographic change. And who can already see today how the fifity-odds ruin their health in 48-hour weeks.

Speaking of Generation Y: Here once again take a look at the first mentioned study “Future Health”. Seven out of ten of the 14- to 34-year-olds found the past year more strenuous than the previous year. Almost two thirds felt stressed out often––and not just at and because of work: also for their family and friends they feel to have to be available almost every minute. Blamed among other things are the digital media like Whatsapp or Facebook. Can we conclude that these people would be happier without Facebook or Twitter? Hard to imagine, right?

Maybe yes! In Denmark there is a “Happy Research Institute”. The Scandinavians conducted a study in which 500 participants resigned Facebook for a week. At the same time, a similar group used the social network as always. What did the institute’s director Meik Wiking find out: The “offliners” felt more concentrated, wasted less time and were much happier with their social contacts in the “real” life. The reverse argument: For all but a handful of lucky ones who are able to switch off the smartphones or tablets, even leisure must be pure stress.

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