Bosses should at least impose a ban on work communication between Christmas and New Year, Mario Ohoven, head of the Association of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses told Thursday's Bild newspaper.
“Clever employers grant their colleagues some Christmas peace in the true sense of the word. Between Christmas and New Year mobile phones should be switched off except in emergencies,” he told the paper.
The rapid spread of smart phones, tablets and laptops means more employees than ever are constantly available to colleagues and clients. A recent study showed that 29 percent of German employees were open to receive emails and phone calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
And with a total 89 billion work-related emails sent worldwide every day - a figure predicted to rise to 144 billion by 2016 – German employers are discussing how to best create a healthy work-life balance.
German Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen recently called for a clearer separation of work and leisure time, and reminded bosses of their legal duty to actively protect the physical and mental wellbeing of their employees.
“When do I have to check mails and when is it ok that I deal with them later? Technology does not pose a problem for health, we just have to learn to deal with it sensibly,” the minister said in June this year.
“We need (to establish) a right to be unavailable, in order to protect employees' leisure time,” Lothar Schröder, member of the board of services trade union Verdi told the paper.
Many large firms have issued rules or statements designed to allow workers to switch off and relax without feeling guilty, yet most have left it up to the individual to decide whether to answer emails in their free time.
“No-one is expecting (employees to) check mails under the Christmas tree. Management should make sure their colleagues don't overstretch themselves,” a spokesman from manufacturing giant Siemens told the paper.
Others said the nature of their work meant they had to be ready to react at the weekend too.
“I'm against a strict rule,” said Herbert Hainer, head of Adidas Germany. “Since we deal with sport, we have to be able to react sometimes at the weekend too. Still, it has to be [something] really important.”