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Labor laws in Germany and Europe - A call to action

I am glad to have caught your attention with a political topic, as I am often surprised and even frustrated how few people are interested in shaping our democracy.


Running a digital agency in Germany, I would like to point out that one can not complain much. You can start a company quickly, and all people I have met within this process were very supportive. Yes, the whole tax topic can be overwhelming, but this should be handled by professionals anyway. There are of course a few minor topics which should be improved. I have for example no understanding why there are mandatorily paid memberships in associations like the IHK.

Nevertheless, those are minor topics, but what I am concerned about are the labor laws which were written in another century and need an urgent update. Labor laws are necessary to protect the rights of employees, and I completely support this. But the way of working has changed and will change dramatically in the next years. Current labor laws are not protecting employees, but limiting companies to offer innovative ways to work.

Additionally, we should finally begin thinking of Europe, if not the World, as one market, not only to sell products and services but also regarding hiring the best people and let them live where they feel at home.

Thus it comes mainly down to two topics I would like to address: working hours and place of living.

Working hours

Let us assume you are running a company in Germany and you are creating digital products or services. You don’t need factories, warehouses or even an office, just smart minds behind laptops.
These smart minds are not part of the company; they are the very essence of the company. Every single person who joins or leaves will change the way you work, especially if you are smaller than, let’s say, around 20 people.

It is therefore apparent that you need to find people who are not only gifted with the best skills and experiences for their role but are also matching nicely with the rest of the crew, who have already established a particular culture.

Let us assume you have built an outstanding team of the best for their job around the world. Everyone trusts each other to bring the team forward, create the best product or services for your clients and enjoy working together. Goals are defined, and everyone is doing the best to reach them with the best balance of quality and time (yes, when reality hits it is sometimes necessary to sacrifice quality for speed).

Having such a great team together, there is no need for controlling the working time, as it doesn’t make sense in a mind-based business. Being in a flow can mean that a whole work week is somehow done in a day. Other days we struggle and cannot focus on a specific topic.

Nevertheless, we are working in an agile process and haven’t found a better way yet (feedback welcome) to charge our clients but tracking the time we are working. So we need to track our efforts dedicated to our client's projects but wouldn’t need to track anything else if the law wouldn’t make us do it.

In an ideal world we would just prioritise the tasks for the coming week, something we do in a weekly prioritisation meeting. How, where and when everyone works on the topics is their responsibility. We are not running a kindergarten. Of course, the team working on a specific project has to organize themselves to get the work done together. But I don’t see any reason why someone shouldn’t take a weekday off to catch some powder or waves and work then on Sunday with a hot coffee on the desk avoiding inclement weather.

Sadly it doesn’t work that way. So we have to track all times, write the working hours in each contract and look that nobody is working more than 8h a day, doesn’t work on Sundays as well as public holidays. 

I hope I could convince you that we would like to give our employees the most freedom we can. I know that this doesn’t work in all kind of companies, but for us, it would be another selling point to convince future team members to join.

What I expect from our political leaders is to give groups of grown-up people working together (aka companies) the freedom to decide for themselves if they would like to work like this or not.

This would not only make working more attractive and improve the work-life balance (if done right). It would also leverage one of the largest and best resources we have at the job market: part-time working mums and dads.

Place of living

While everyone is still discussing green cards, immigration laws and how to attract skilled people from other countries, we should lean back and reflect on it.

There are jobs where it is essential to be at a specific place, e.g., if you are creating a physical product. Also, a butcher, baker or physician has to have a defined location. No discussion needed.

But we have nowadays a lot of jobs where it is just not needed to sit in a room together. It is sometimes even a terrible idea. Just walk into any company with software developers. You will find them sitting in shared office spaces, wearing giant headphones, sometimes not even listening to music, just to get into the flow.

Of course, it is sometimes important to meet in person, but most topics can be discussed and solved via chat or a short web meeting. Even if you need to meet to tackle a certain subject, it is much more efficient and fun to fly everyone together in a lovely Airbnb.

This also works very nicely with international clients, which we sometimes never meet or only a few times a year.

We have also learned that it is essential everyone feels like part of the team, and not working as a freelancer or in some offshore company. Additionally, it is important that we can easily fly to a meeting point within 3h and that we are working in a similar time zone.
This limits us more or less to Europe, and one could expect that the European Union is our best friend taking care of all the challenges it brings. Only, it doesn’t.

It is easy to hire someone who has an EU-citizenship, but only if this person is moving to Germany. And believe it or not: not everyone is a fan of the weather conditions and learning a somewhat tricky language.

If you are trying to hire people in other EU-countries, you have to register your company in this country, and you need an additional tax accountant there. You could also just hire people as freelancers, and they send you invoices, but this is not the way we would like to hire people. We want to do it properly.

This leads to the situation that we are currently registered in a few countries and are paying an additional amount of money to tax accountants, which we would rather pay out to our crew or keep the prices low for our clients.

My call to action is therefore to simplify the hiring of remote working people in other EU-countries. This would lead to more skilled people available for the German market, as well as balancing the different employment rates within the European Union.

Official EU

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