One of the phrases that I hear quite often is “work-life balance”. It seems to be of huge importance here (even compared to Canada), and taken quite seriously by everyone including the government.
Maybe its even stricker because I’m working in a more governmental, international company, but these are some of the things that have taken me for surprise since I’ve been here:
1. 35 hour work week – any overtime you have to take off as holidays as soon as possible afterwards.
2. Not allowed to work longer than 7pm (up until a couple months ago your security card would get blocked and you would have to get forms filled out by your boss to get it reinstated).
3. Must take a 45 min break every day if you are at the company more than 6 hours.
4. Many employees just take 6 hour days on Fridays and leave around 3 of 4pm during the rest of the week.
5. If you are sick, then you get a completely paid day off, no holidays used, no flextime taken. Paid in full by the company.
6. Every employee is completely covered by the German Healthcare system (whether a foreigner or a national) and pays for it with a fixed percentage every paycheck.
Of course these socialist measures come at a bit of a price. Unfortunately even I, a poor student, have to pay 22% in taxes next to my income tax. Although I’ll be able to get back 12% (in 2 years) because I won’t be staying in Germany longer than 5 years.
While people seem to be quite focused at work, in general they are very laid back. It is interesting to see this other way of creating the much desired “work-life balance”. I don’t really know yet how I feel about that, there is definitely a competitive and driven atmosphere that I am missing from previous work experiences…