I have been working as an intern at a German company for a month.

The last 3 weeks I worked 9-10 hours a day in average.

I would like to work 8 hours, since after that my productivity reduces significantly and I am mostly losing my time, however, all interns are told when to go home by people, who give them tasks.

The problem is that I do not want to look like I am avoiding work or lazy. At the same time I need some work life balance, because otherwise my productivity fails even during the first 8 hours.

As a bit of a context, people who work there mostly work more than 8 hours. There are various patterns, which usually lead to long hours:

  1. "Finish the little thing and go, or work up to 8pm (i.e. 10 hours)" However, they usually underestimate required time and I end up staying to 8pm;

  2. "It is important and it needs to be done by tomorrow" However, tomorrow (when it is done) it is not usually that important;

  3. When I tell that I am tired and not effective, the same "little thing" argument goes together with "stay a bit more".

UPD: Intern means "Praktikant". The area is finance. The idealistic aim is to work less than 10, but making good impression. I would prefer not to lose anything (apart from probably lowering salary). I receive another task just after the previous one is done.

The contract says that regular working time is 40 hours a week and the distribution of working hours is done according to the company needs and if needed you will work more.

  • If you don't want to work more than 8 hours, but everyone in your current company works more than 8 hours, I think it's time to search for another job.
    – undefined
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 12:39
  • 1
    What's your goal (limit your workday to 8 hours?), how do you want to go about it (talk to your manager? address it in the moment?) and what are you willing to lose (i.e. your job)?
    – Lilienthal
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 12:59
  • 3
    As we don't have "interns" in Germany, can you add more information about your status in he company? Are you Azubi, Praktikant, Leiharbeiter? What does your contract say for example?
    – nvoigt
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 13:14
  • 2
    @Sempie Are you sure the OP knows that? I'd rather be sure than craft a full answer for nothing.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 13:18
  • 2
    work eight hours, then walk out the door and go home, what is difficult about that? No sane company has interns working on critical stuff.
    – Kilisi
    Commented Mar 19, 2016 at 6:31

5 Answers 5


1) "Finish the little thing and go, or work up to 8pm (i.e. 10 hours)" However, they usually underestimate required time and I end up staying to 8pm;

Just to clarify if I got that right:

You do your job for 8 hours, if you're not done, you do your job for another 2 hours, or until its done (Whatever happens earlier). (right?)

The regular working time in germany is at 8 hours (There are exceptions, for example for truckdrivers, officers, ... .) If you work more than 8 hours, or more than stated in your contract, you're doing over time. If this over time is not a working instruction, you don't have to do them by law.

If this is a working instruction, it's by law overtime. Lawful overtime is regulated by the ArbZG "Arbeitszeitgesetz". It says, that you must not work more than 10 hours per day, not more than 8 hours a day in median over a time of 24 weeks. Also, if your contract has no regulation for over time, you don't have to do them at all! (ArbZG - Arbeitszeitengesetz) Overtime has to be compensated either by money (Where the hours have to be payed with the same payment you get on the normal base, at least) or with the same amout of free time.)

2) "It is important and it needs to be done by tomorrow" However, tomorrow (when it is done) it is not usually that important;

This is company culture. You are not in the position to change this. If this is a big problem for you, you should look for another employer.

3) When I tell that I am tired and not effective, the same "little thing" argument goes together with "stay a bit more".

This isn't as bad as it seems in the first place. It means, that they do not get angry by your request, they just don't agree.

Problem is: In a company culture where everyone is used to work a little more than 8 hours a day, referencing on the legal situation is a bad idea.

For example: In germany, if you've taken a few days off (Urlaub) and you get ill, you can reclaim the days off. Bur in real life, if you do this without being REALLY ill, you look like a jerk. Same situation.

So, if you can't convince them to let you go after 8 hours, you should either accept it, or search another employer. You could surely claim your right to by go time, but internship is a crucial time where you have to get good references and a certificate you can show. Claiming your right in that time will burn bridges and, probably, leave you with a bad reference. Switching the company is not that harmful.

  • Wrong/incomplete: not more than 8 hours a day in median over a time of 24 weeks - This includes Saturdays, and is in avergage. AFAIU You should not exceed 48 hours per week in average for more than 24 weeks.
    – Sascha
    Commented Aug 8, 2017 at 11:07

Being an intern and being an employee are obviousy two VERY different things. If I am to assume that you're interning at the company because your studies require you to have an internship, then there "should" be an internship contract. Usually they are given to you by school to be signed by both you, the company and the school. If it says in there that you're supposed to have 40 hour working weeks, then you're obviously working too much. If it doesn't state anything like that in any of the contracts you signed. Then things get a bit complicated.

Because you're an intern, you most likely (I'm not sure) get paid a certain fixed amount regardless of how many hours you work. So working more hours has no advantage for you in any way (other than pleasing the employer).

If you don't want to work more than 40 hours then you should tell them that you wish to make the hours that were agreed upon. you could say that you don't mind deviating from this on occasion. But if it becomes a habit like it has right now, You should try to refer to the contract with the agreed upon time. Talk to them about it politely, if they insist on you working more hours despite all this. Possibly contact your school (assuming this internship is part of your school degree).

If this is not part of your school degree, then I would consider looking for other companies if this company doesn't care about your working hours/mental sanity.


If you have a contract (probably do, because: intern), then make the piece of paper the bad guy.

Sorry, I can't finish that today. My contract states that I am only allowed to work 8 hours a day / 40 hours a week.

Communicate this in writing (email). Cc your professor or department. If it continues, get your school involved. No doubt they have protections against this kind of things so students get blackmailed into long hours for a good grade.

Realize that this will not endear you to the company, and may damage your chances of getting hired after school. However, it sounds like the culture at this firm is not a good fit for you anyway.

Also realize, this kind of expectation is not uncommon. You may encounter this kind of expectation in industry when you graduate. If this expectation is a deal-breaker for you, then consider company culture carefully when you are looking for a job full time. Jobs with long hours often pay better, but are more stressful. You will have to find a balance that works for you.


You have to decide if performing well on this internship is going to create opportunities for future employment. Internships are usually short-term, so asking you to put in extra hours may be considered a good way to tell who is willing to do what it takes.

Are you sure you won't be putting in these hours when you get a full-time job? There are many industries where professionals typically work these kinds of hours. You may find that once you improve your skills, it won't take as long to accomplish these tasks, but you don't get there until you put in the work.

Decide for yourself what work-life balance means. You may not be in an industry that is conducive to those needs.

My suggestion is to pay your dues especially early in your career. There should be plenty of time after the internship is over and hopefully it will be worth it if it results in a better job.


As someone from the US, this sounds like a normal business day to me. I even had one where 11 hours was the minimum I worked in the last 4 months I was there and 18 hours in a row was common. They burned people out fast (no one stayed more than 6 months), but somehow they didn't seem to care.

Depending on the industry, there may be some unwritten norms. There is the letter of the law and what companies actually do and the two may differ. Most companies know that most employees won't take them to court.

For an internship which is short-term it might be best to go along with the corporate culture and then ask questions about these things when interviewing for your first job out of school to avoid getting into such a company permanently. You have to pass the internship after all. Companies like this tend to accept the productivity drop or pretend it doesn't exist. However if your industry (like much of the software dev industry in the US) routinely works those hours, you may have much more problems landing that first job.

The "it's really important to finish this today and then tomorrow nobody is concerned with looking at what you did or moving it to the next step" thing is just part of the pretty much every work culture I have ever seen across multiple industries. Some managers are worse about it than others. But I have worked many a weekend to finish something that absolutely had to be one someone's desk before 8 am Monday morning and then they didn't look at it for a couple of week. Your priorities are set by your boss, don't worry about what priorities other people have. It will drive you crazy.

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