Friday, August 2, 2019

The German Live and Work Productivity

German virtues such as cleanliness, punctuality, and order sometimes have compulsive traits.  Where does it come from?

Prussia's influence in Europe's past was based on Protestant virtues, formerly compulsory education and high status of all military, which previously existed only to this extent in France. When Preussen dominated the newly formed small German Empire from the age of high industrialization, these peculiarities came to full effect.

This development was by no means inevitable, but led first to the exaggeration of the presumed ordeal and then, especially after 1968, to emphasize, not always successful, sometimes slightly neurotic distancing: exaggerated thoroughness, pedantry and, above all, a focus on social order must be historically biased in Germany.

Being productive is not a wish, but a German urge that does not just reign in factories and offices.  Meeting deadlines, being on time and constantly improving work is part of the education, study, profession and overall social life.  Every street, every place can be embellished!  The buses and trains can go even faster!  Everyone strives to organize their lives more effectively.  Rules can be taken quite seriously in Germany.  But that does not mean that every rule is always followed blindly.

Being punctual means more: Punctuality is a sign of good manners, and those who are on time show that they value their counterparts.  Whoever comes too late, signals the other: You are not important enough to me.

Germans and Swiss were dependent on pure value creation by human capabilities, or sufficient frugality to achieve sustainable growth.  One can speak to some extent of survival value. It becomes problematic only through lack of distance and ignorance of one's own culture, namely, by absolutizing orderliness rather than as a strategic resource. Germans and Swiss sometimes rightly say that they have a penchant for spontaneity.  The dark side of neatness is the tendency towards social conformism - as in Japan, for example.

One reason could be that many of the people constantly think and live for two hours, two days, two weeks, two months or two years in advance.  From this, a dead straight forward planning seems to emerge.  Corresponding success and order will not surprise you either.

Business Life
It is said that "Englishmen and North Americans are too friendly, to be honest, that Germans are too honest to be friendly". 

The Germans have a problem: they are too honest and too bluntly speaking their minds. Other nationalities might be offended by it.  Germans admit when they have doubts or when something is not ready yet.  North Americans say: We have the best product in the world - even if it's not finished yet. They sell better...

Here is an article excerpt which shows the difference in work culture:
How can a country that works an average of 35 hours per week with an average of 24 paid vacation days maintain such a high level of productivity?

Working Hours Mean Working Hours
In German business culture, when an employee is at work, they should not be doing anything other than their work.  Social media, office gossip with co-workers, trolling Pinterest for hours, writing private emails, and pulling up a fake spreadsheet when your boss walks by are socially unacceptable behaviors.

Obviously, in the US, Canada, or Great Britain these behaviors are frowned upon by management.  But in Germany, there is zero-tolerance among peers for such frivolous activities.
A young German woman explained her culture shock while on a working exchange to the UK. “I was in England for an exchange … I was in the office and the people are talking all the time about their private things … ‘What’s the plan for tonight?’ and all the time drinking tea or coffee … She was quite surprised by the casual nature of British workers. 

Goal-Oriented, Direct Communication Is Valued
German business culture is one of intense focus and direct communication.  While Americans tend to value small talk and maintaining an upbeat atmosphere, Germans rarely beat around the bush.  German workers will directly speak to a manager about performance reviews, launch into a business meeting without any ‘icebreakers,’ and use commanding language without softening the directives with polite phrases.  Whereas an American would say, “It would be great if you could get this to me by 3 p.m.,” a German would say, “I need this by 3 p.m.”
When a German is at work, they are focused and diligent, which in turn leads to higher productivity in a shorter period of time.

Germans Have a Life Outside Work
Germans work hard and play hard.  Since the working day is focused on delivering efficient productivity, the off hours are truly "off hours".  Because of the focused atmosphere and formal environment of German businesses, employees don’t necessarily hang out together after work.  Germans generally value a separation between private life and working life.

To occupy their plentiful Freizeit, many Germans are involved in Verein (clubs); regularly meeting others with shared interests in their community.  Even the smallest village in Germany will have several active Vereine to accommodate residents’ interests. Rather than settling in for a night of TV after work, most Germans socialize with others in their community and cultivate themselves as people.

Germans also enjoy a high number of paid vacation days, with many salaried employees receiving 25-30 paid days (the law requires 20). Extended holidays mean families can enjoy up to a month together, renting an apartment by the seaside or taking a long trip to a new, exciting city.

Business Respects Parenthood
Germany’s system of Elternzeit (“parent time” or parental leave) is the stuff of fantasy for most working Americans.  The United States does not currently have laws requiring maternity leave, while Germany has some of the most extensive parental protection policies in the developed world.
The downside of these maternity leave benefits is that employers may avoid hiring women (with the fear that they will take advantage of the extensive benefits), and German boardrooms are consistently male-dominated at a higher rate than other developed nations, although the government is working to eradicate this trend.

The financial benefits of staying home (from both Elternzeit and Elterngeld or parents’ money programs) are often too good to pass up for German mothers and can lead to stagnant or non-existent careers.

Since “at will” employment does not exist in Germany, all employees have contracts with their employer.  Parents who have been gainfully employed for the previous 12 months are eligible for Elternzeit benefits, which include up to three years of unpaid leave with a “sleeping” contract.

The employee is eligible to work part-time up to 30 hours while on leave and must be offered full-time employment at the conclusion of the parental leave. bParents may also choose to postpone up to one year of their leave until the child’s 8th birthday.  Either parent is eligible for parental leave, and many couples make the choice based on financial considerations.

In addition to the preservation of the employee’s contract, the state will pay up 67% of the employee’s salary (with a cap of 1800 Euros per month) for 14 months.  Parents may split the 14 months however they choose. These benefits apply equally to same-sex couples.
Have you picked your jaw up off the floor yet?

Put Some German In Your Office
The German work culture is very different from the average North American office, but there are certainly lessons to be learned from our German counterparts.  The diligent focus Germans bring to their working life is to be admired.  Separating work from play can help us lead a more balanced life; putting the phone down after-hours gives us a mental break from stressing about work, and we can return to the office refreshed in the morning.

When it’s time to get something done, closing Facebook and turning off push notifications helps keep our minds quiet and the flow steady.  Direct conversation can lead to increased efficiency and more clarity of communication among team members.

Americans often equate longer hours with increased production and superior work ethic, but examining the German model makes one wonder: When it comes to time at work, maybe less really is more!



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