The Future of Work – Germany

The German working environment

Filter the map below to see how the mood of German workers compares to those in other markets:

‘Can’t have it all’: German workers have mixed feelings about their work environment

At a first glance, the working dynamic in Germany appears to be reasonably healthy, with two fifths (38%) of German workers feeling content at work and with 27% describing their working atmosphere as calm.

On top of it, more than a third report feeling productive (34%) and motivated (32%) at work. This is compared to only 6% who say they feel overwhelmed or 9% who report feeling bored.

However, negative feelings such as exhaustion (26%) and frustration (21%) follow behind, with female workers dominating the numbers. More than a third of female workers feel exhausted at work (34%), as opposed to 19% of male workers. Although the difference is less stark, more female workers also feel frustrated (25%) than male workers (17%).

Despite this, engagement in work appears to be unaffected by the negative feelings, as female workers report negligible differences in productivity and motivation compared to their male counterparts. More than a third (35%) of the female workers surveyed report feeling productive at work, a comparable rate to 33% of male workers. Similarly, 32% of female workers report feeling motivated, just shy of 33% of male workers.

Reassuringly, the findings also showed very few cases of poor well-being. Less than one in ten (7%) of all the workers surveyed report feeling sad, and only 6% feels overwhelmed or anxious.

Workplace culture

Male workers more comfortable asking for a pay rise than their female counterparts

When it comes to how German workers feel talking to their boss about workplace issues, there are mixed feelings of comfort and discomfort. While just less than third (28%) report feeling comfortable asking for time off work for mental health reasons an almost equal proportion (29%) reporting feeling uncomfortable. Furthermore, a fifth (21%) say that they have lied to their boss about taking time off work for their own mental health.

In a similar vein, there are mixed feelings when it comes to having career-related discussions with their bosses. Less than a third (29%) of German respondents say they feel comfortable asking for a pay rise, while a slightly higher proportion (32%) stated their discomfort. Meanwhile, 27% say they feel comfortable asking for a promotion, while 25% feel uncomfortable doing this. There is a gender disparity when it comes to career-related discussions; with women feeling less comfortable than men asking for pay rise (23% versus 34%) and promotion (23% versus 31%).

The topic German workers feel most comfortable about is asking time off to care for someone else. A third (33%) feel comfortable asking their boss for this compared to only 17% who feel uncomfortable.

Do German workers and employers share mutual respect?

Future of work

Three fifths say a 4-day working week would positively impact their wellbeing, but is it realistic?

There have been global conversations among governments and businesses about the possibility of reducing the 5-day working week to just 4 days, but do German workers think it is realistic?

Across the sample, three fifths (58%) say reducing their working week to 4 days would positively impact their wellbeing, which is felt consistently across all ages, with a stronger agreement from the female workers (62% versus 54% of male workers). Furthermore, over two fifths (44%) think they would be more productive working within 4 days, indicating that workers could be more engaged and produce better work if their week was shortened.

Three in ten (30%) would even go as far as saying they would relocate to another country that allowed the 4-day working week if theirs did not, indicating the impact it could have on staff retention if it’s implemented.  

Nevertheless, despite a generally favourable view of the 4-day working week not all German respondents think it is realistic. Four in ten say (40%) they do not know how they would fit their workload into 4 days and more than half (55%) do not think their employers would ever go for it.

Digital transformation hopes and fears

In the last year, a rapid shift toward automation in the workplace has sparked conversations around the potential benefits and challenges for businesses and their workers. Simultaneously, businesses are increasingly confronted by a looming threat of a cyberattacks or security breaches.

Compared to other markets, German workers are almost equally as likely to report concerns around automation and cybersecurity. A fifth (19%) are worried their role could be replaced by automation compared to almost a quarter (23%) of the European average. Similarly, 18% worry they will fall victim to a cyber-attack at work compared to 21% across all European markets.

Despite notable concerns among the German workers, there are signs of optimism when it comes to advanced technologies. When thinking about how artificial intelligence will impact their organisation, over one in four (27%) German workers think it will be a good thing overall.

Click here to find out more about the Future of Work in other countries.