Innovations need freedom

BDA AGENDA 2/23 | COMMENT OF THE WEEK | January 26, 2023

Ilka Horstmeier, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Human Resources and Real Estate, Labor Director

The flexible organization of working time is an achievement of modern working. A new law on time recording must give companies and employees alike room for maneuver.

What are the working days like in your company? I'm sure the answer to that question is multifaceted. Today, people work on the road, in the home office, in the office. In many cases, they decide for themselves when and how much they work. We call this trust-based working time. It is an achievement of modern working, and no one would want to do without it - companies and employees alike.

Flexibility in working hours is a feature of everyday working life in many areas of business today. It is to be welcomed that the Federal Labor Court, too, does not demand a return to the time clock in its decision on the recording of working hours. An initial reading of the reasons for the decision reveals some leeway. Companies now need legal certainty as quickly as possible in the form of a law that spells out the key data on the recording of working time and at the same time safeguards the breadth of the practice that has been put into practice and proven in companies.

What does this practice look like? Dividing up working time over the course of the day, interrupting work in the home office because the handyman rings, reading an interesting technical article in the evening, and having the inspiration to solve a problem while out for a walk - it is often impossible to precisely define an exact beginning and sharp end to working time. An obligation to meticulously record time and document breaks would hardly be feasible and, on top of that, would be burdensome bureaucracy. Instead, we need and appreciate flexibility in the organization of working time.

However, this flexibility is increasingly coming into conflict with a rigid working time law that prescribes fixed rest periods: A voluntary work period in the evening must be followed by eleven hours of rest. If you want to take advantage of a creative surge in a design project, you are obliged to stop after ten hours of work. In doing so, you would like to work longer today and finish work earlier on another day.

A new law must therefore absolutely allow for flexibility. For young applicants in particular, the question of working time arrangements is a key aspect. Flexibility a high good. This is the only way companies can attract talent, remain competitive and drive innovation. Working according to a schedule no longer meets the challenges of today's working world. We need the possibility of free time management. It creates scope for the company and for the interests of employees and is the prerequisite for practicing modern ways of working. Those who want to use this leeway should also be able to do so in the future.

In short, the world of work is changing. If politicians now set their sights on the Working Hours Act, a general revision would be desirable. Modern legislation would be an important step for Germany as a strong business location.