Friday, December 23, 2011

Volkswagen to disable employee email after shift-end

Volkswagen is experiencing a RIM outage --- and nightly, too --- but it's of the carmaker's own volition. The company has agreed to disable BlackBerry email services for off-shift workers, following complaints by employees that work - life balance was being adversely affected by off-shift emails.

Under the deal, VW's BlackBerry servers stop routing emails to off-shift employees 30 minutes after the end of their shift. Routing begins again 30 minutes before employees return to work. The deal covers employees in Germany who working under trade union negotiated contracts. That would, of course, exclude VW executives.

It's something that's been discussed in the U.S., as well, and naturally applies to employees who receive emails not just to BlackBerrys, but also to other mobile devices that might simply use ActiveSync (say on an iPhone) or some third party app, such as Enhanced Email on Android. Work - Life balance has been impacted worldwide due to the proliferation of such mobile email, and unlike Germany's unusually liberal employee protection policies, folks in the U.S. may be inundated with email all night long.

It's especially a problem if a worker is receiving emails on their mobile device in the middle of the night, due to the globalization of their company.

Will Hutton, chair of the Big Innovation Centre at The Work Foundation said

"It's bad for the individual worker's performance being online and available 24-7. You do need downtime, you do need periods in which you can actually reflect on something without needing instantaneously to give a reaction.

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"Secondly it has a poor impact on an individual's well-being. I think that one has to patrol quite carefully the borderline between work and non-work.

"So I can see why some firms are taking this action, the problem is that a universal response is impossible... but certainly we should have the capacity to be opted out of it rather than be opted in."

Thierry Breton, chief executive of the giant French information technology services company, Atos has taken a more radical step, banning internal email altogether from 2014. This follows statements by Breton in which he said that Atos employees were wasting hours of their lives on internal emails both at home and at work.

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