Volkswagen turns off Blackberry email after work hours

 
Blackberry Bold UK unions have warned that VW-style email restrictions might not suit other companies

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Volkswagen has agreed to stop its Blackberry servers sending emails to some of its employees when they are off-shift.

The carmaker confirmed it made the move earlier this year following complaints that staff's work and home lives were becoming blurred.

The restriction covers employees in Germany working under trade union negotiated contracts.

Campaigners warned that the move would not be suitable for all companies.

A spokesman for VW said: "We confirm that this agreement between VW and the company's work council exists", but would not comment further.

Under the arrangement servers stop routing emails 30 minutes after the end of employees' shifts, and then start again 30 minutes before they return to work.

The staff can still use their devices to make calls and the rule does not apply to senior management.

"We wanted to take a preventative approach to tackling the issue," said Gunnar Killian, VW's works council spokesman.

"At Volkswagen flexitime is between 0730-1745, with our new arrangement workers can only receive emails between 0700 and 1815."

Spare time

The move follows criticism of internal emails by Thierry Breton, chief executive of the French information technology services giant, Atos. He said workers at his firm were wasting hours of their lives on internal messages both at home and at work. He has taken the more radical step of banning internal email altogether from 2014.

Last month the maker of Persil washing powder, Henkel, also declared an email "amnesty" for its workers between Christmas and New Year saying messages should only be sent out as an emergency measure.

Industry watchers say the moves reflect growing awareness of a problem.

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

"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."

Consultations

Union officials in the UK have also cautioned other firms against repeating Volkswagen's move without consultation.

"The issue of employees using Blackberrys, computers and other devices out of working time is a growing one that needs to be addressed as it can be a source of stress," Trades Union Congress (TUC) secretary general Brendan Barber told the BBC.

"However other organisations will need different solutions and what works in VW may not work elsewhere.

"By working in partnership with their union, Volkswagen's policy will have the support of all their employees. Where employers simply introduce policies on their own, however well-meaning they may be, they are unlikely to be successful."

 

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  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 36.

    @24 - Those who know their smartphone history know that the iPhone itself is no original - I was using a fundamentally similar device 5 years before it first appeared (from Sony Ericsson). Sure, Apple has some legal muscle, but intellectually it's always been one step behind. Anyway, the iPhone is a curious choice for an email device, given its lack of a physical keyboard.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 35.

    Hope the UK rioters have a union....

  • rate this
    +12

    Comment number 34.

    This is a very good move. The real issue here is that the fine boundary of life and work balance is lost. The employee are expected to respond via emails even when someone is bathing, toilet, eating, running even as in bed room!

    I remember at many instances where boss only recognize your contribution on when/how frequently you provide your time from out of your family time i.e via emails!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 33.

    Its funny, when you start to get emails to your phone for the first time... you get this pull of, i wonder if.. its a novelty which then quickly starts to take up your weekends and then you life. My boss constantly is on hers and decided it was appropriate to reply at 2:37am!

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 32.

    This would not happen in the sweat shops of North America.

  • rate this
    +35

    Comment number 31.

    If I receive an email out of hours I feel no responsibility to reply until at least 9am the next morning. I do however value being able to read through those emails on the bus to work, or on my way home, or any other time I see fit. Rather than creating stress it allows me to take care of a small part of my job on my terms and take some pressure off the rest of my day!

  • rate this
    +28

    Comment number 30.

    "UK unions have warned that VW-style email restrictions might not suit other companies"

    No, but it will suit their employees - whom many companies seem to believe they own, to do their bidding (and unpaid work at home) 24/7

  • rate this
    -32

    Comment number 29.

    How ironic the private are been offered this, public sector has no choice. it's part and parcel of job, and if they complained, you would run the risk of being discaplined. So much to cuistomer satisfaction, simple answer do not buy VW.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 28.

    Why don't they simply switch off their blackberrys when they get home??

    Strange.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 27.

    Do these gadgets not have an "Off" button?

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 26.

    About time companies started doing this.
    @PaulChapman: What on earth would a school need to use blackberries for, and why would they need to contact people 24/7? It's a school, not a merchant bank!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 25.

    If your job requires that you are in contact 24 hours or 'on call' then it's obvious that people from work should be able to contact you as appropriate. I work in an office where I need a mobile to be in touch during work hours. The device has this miraculous thing called an 'On/Off switch'. I use that to determine when I can and cannot be contacted.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 24.

    @12 - Galaxy S2 powered by Android, ripped off from Apple, now subject to Patent rows across the world. Still, if you're happy that's good. Still doesn't address the issue of people not turning off their e-mail for fear of missing the bosses latest rant. That is not sad, it is pathetic. You work to live, not live to work.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 23.

    16.Graphis

    I'm at work reading this...

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 22.

    The government needs to make such things law. You aren't allowed to work over a specific amount of hours a week by law, but companies get around this with 24/7 email.

    If decisions need to be made 24/7 then companies need to introduce shift working.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 21.

    16. Graphis.
    You didn't used to work in the public sector did you? ;-)

  • rate this
    +35

    Comment number 20.

    #2:Rabbitkiller
    You have obviously never had a job where you are expected to be contactable 24/7.

    You can't "just switch the thing off" or you get into serious trouble with the boss the next day. It's a real source of stress.

    It doesn't matter if it's not in your contract: work practices and peer pressure result in a very blurred work/life boundary.

    This policy move by VW is very welcome.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 19.

    I get phone by the boss 24/7 here at school. The other caretakers turn off the phones. Here I reply with the early morning reply, very very early morning reply. "Here's your wake up call, sir we have a problem....", rather like Apollo 13 because something is bust. I get up at 04:30 heh heh. Meal time is another good time to reply ;-)

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 18.

    I think this is a great step from VW. There is so much pressure on staff in many firms to keep working from home and during their commute so an employer stepping in to help workers reclaim their home lives is very progressive.

    Which my work did the same!

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 17.

    Britain ran an empire that spanned the globe with nothing but surface post. How? By delegating decsions and trusting the people on the ground get on with the job. I'm paid to think and solve problems, do I need my boss e-mailing me to remind me that? Do I need to know the printer in our xxx office is jammed? There's also an insidious presumtion that we are monitoring our mails all the time.

 

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