Work-life balance is of such extraordinary importance to Germans that it is imbedded in their labor laws, in how their companies treat their employees, in their expectations as a society.
Until recent years work-life balance had been of far less importance to Americans. It is not imbedded in their labor laws. U.S. companies do not yet see it as their responsibility. Work-life balance has, however, become a topic of intense discussion within American society.
From the German point of view the American economy hardly allows for any kind of work-life balance. They see Americans as working themselves to death. Germans shake their heads: “Don’t they see that this is not only bad for the people, but also bad for productivity, thus bad for business?”
Americans look with ambivalent feelings at how well Germans balance work and life. On the one hand they see all of the perks and are both amazed and more than a bit envious.
On the other hand they shout “socialism!”, which they claim could never work in the U.S. because it would be too costly and thus threaten competitiveness. “Who is going to pay for all of that?”
Advice to Germans
Yes, most Americans need more life and less work. But if you lead an organisation with Americans be very careful about forcing a balance on them which might restrict their willingness to worker hard, longer, and better than their peers. Americans want to decide for themselves what the optimal balance is. Some, perhaps many, are fine with more work than life.
Advice to Americans
Don’t mess around with how Germans balance work and life. They take the life part very seriously. If you lead an organisation with Germans in it, and you want them to perform, forcing more work on them at the expense of life will be counterproductive.
Don’t worry, German performers also work in the evenings, on the weekends, and during their vacations. Focus more on output, on productivity and performance, and less on blood, sweat and tears.