Christmas Day: The roast has been eaten, the grandparents are on their way home and the children are playing with the gifts from the previous evening. Time to sit down on the sofa full and relaxed - or maybe, just really quickly, check your work emails?
The boss said that he might still have questions about the current project. What can all too easily spark a family rift is a reality for many people with office jobs. According to a recent survey, almost a third can also be reached over the public holidays and between the years.
Specifically, in a survey conducted by pollster YouGov on behalf of office communications service Slack, 32 percent of respondents with office jobs said they planned to be available even though they were on vacation. Almost two thirds of them will look at their official messages at least several times a day.
48 percent of those affected stated that the reason for their accessibility was that the employer expects this, 54 percent cited the expectations of the customers. At 61 percent, however, those affected said even more frequently that important projects had to be pushed ahead. And a whopping 77 percent even said they do it of their own accord.
This own drive can definitely make a difference: For the extent to which availability affects the well-being of employees, it also depends on whether it is voluntary or not, says Johannes Wendsche from the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. "Anyone who doesn't separate their private life from work can even feel good, at least in the short term, to be available." On the other hand, anyone who can be reached under direct or indirect pressure feels more negatively - especially if they actually make a strong distinction between work and private life.
In the long term, however, accessibility in both cases has a rather unfavorable effect on the ability to switch off, recreation and the compatibility of job and family - although not necessarily to the same extent for everyone, says the expert. "It is advantageous for companies to have recovered employees." They are more efficient and, in the long run, also more creative.
"When people have the feeling that they have to be available, it's often because of the working conditions," says Wendsche. For example, because there is too much work anyway or there is no substitute. In the long run, however, this has negative effects - for people and companies.
Anja Piel, board member of the German Federation of Trade Unions, complains: "Unfortunately, many employees will have their work cell phones within reach again for the 2022 public holidays." At the same time, she warns: "Constant on-call duty makes us ill. Exhaustion, sleep disorders and even cardiovascular diseases can be the consequences of such a dissolution of boundaries."
Piel emphasizes that employers are obliged to ensure the safety and health of employees at work. "Unfortunately, not everyone does that." The federal government must therefore "finally take countermeasures with an anti-stress regulation and create clear rules for combating mental stress at work".
It's not just about public holidays, but also about the "completely normal day-to-day work of employees," emphasizes Piel. "People are not machines - we all need rest."
The head of Central Europe at Slack, Oliver Blüher, sees it similarly. "Flexible working must not result in employees being permanently available and unable to switch off at all," he says. "Because only those who can really switch off on vacation or after work will come back to work with renewed energy and motivation."
Last year, the Christmas break didn't work out for many employees: 23 percent of all those surveyed said that the boss had contacted them on business during the holidays, even though they were free. And 18 percent even said they had to work even though they had the day off.
In an international comparison, however, Germany is not in such a bad position: In Australia and the USA, around two-thirds of those surveyed said that they could be reached for work over the holidays and between the years. A good twice as many as in this country.