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I am about to start my first job as a software developer in a well reputed company in Germany. I have heard plenty of times that one is not allowed to work overtime regularly unless its highly important. Even during my internship at another established company, my supervisor used to tell me that not only students but also employees cannot stay longer than 7 pm.

Why is it so? What if somebody (especially new employee like me) actually wants to put in extra hours to get going and gather pace quickly? How does it affect me or the management?

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    Does this question provide the answers you need? – enderland May 14 '15 at 13:31
  • @enderland somehow yes, but not completely. What if I wish to sit long hours to grasp things quickly? I am new and want to add value to the company at the earliest. – learner May 14 '15 at 13:33
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Why is it so?

  • Because we have rather strong unions.
  • Because it makes no sense to burn out your employees.
  • Because people make more mistakes and are less productive when they work long hours.
  • Because if you work more, your company will have to pay you more (or give you paid time off), and since you are less productive in those extra hours, they don't think they'll get their money's worth.

What if somebody (especially new employee like me) actually wants to put in extra hours to get going and gather pace quickly?

  • In some companies and with some contracts, you can put in extra time (as long as you still stay under certain daily and weekly limits) for a couple of month and then either work less for a couple of month or get paid extra. Talk to your Manager or HR about this. Usually, management will only allow this if there is urgent need for you to work extra. Learning new topics doesn't count.
  • However, you can always use your spare time to study the topics that come up at work.

Many companies will support you in that. For example, one of the companies I worked for would purchase books and cover exam fees if their employees wanted to study a topic and get a certificate for it. Talk to HR to find out what kind of "Weiterbildung" they offer. Keep in mind that they'll usually not start investing into new employees until after the probationary period.

How does it affect me or the management?

  • As long as you make sure to come to an agreement with your manager and HR about your work times, and those times are within the legal boundaries, there's no need to worry.
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    The legal foundation for these rules is the "Arbeitszeitgesetz" (work-time law) which puts a lot of limits on when and how long employees are allowed to work. – Philipp May 14 '15 at 17:27
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In addition to the strict employee protection laws in Germany (officially you are not allowed to work more than 10 hours a day) there are logistic reasons.

If you work longer than your colleagues, no one can check on you. That is especially important as you are new and no one knows if you can be trusted. Also, working overtime without a strong need may be a problem later. Imagine you get your first project and it gets stressing. Now you need to work extra hours. But if you already have many hours, you may not allowed by the company policy.

Policies regarding overtime are varying strongly between companies and departments. A good thing for you as the "new one" is to listen to your boss and copy the behavior of your colleagues.

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strong labor laws disallow workers from being 'forced' to work regardless if they are the ones who are doing the forcing or not. the only way to change this is through the ballot (good luck).

I recommend taking work home with you if the country you live in doesn't allow you to work longer than 8 hours per day. Whether this is actual work things (may be sensitive) or simply topics you can cover by independent study.

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    I'd omit the compete economically comment. The US and Japan are well known for long hours, and work following you home, etc. We've also done tons of research and are finding more and more working these hours has rather serious physical, psychological, and emotional health consequences. As such one would argue the US and Japan are more worried about their business's health, these other countries with strict hours, etc are more concerned about the overall health of their population. (a lot more involved here) The rest of your response is good and I've voted it up, but let's keep out politics. – RualStorge May 14 '15 at 16:46
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    And I don't have the impression European businesses are failing in comparison to American or Japanese. Japan is in serious economic problems, despite the crazy work ethic. – Paul Hiemstra May 15 '15 at 9:25
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    First of all the limit in Germany is 10 hours per day which should be sufficient, if the work load in the company is managed properly. Second there's plenty of study that after 8 hours your productivity is reduced drastically. – Simon May 15 '15 at 10:47

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