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."


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

    Comment number 56.

    It sounds to me that there are too many bosses who bully their staff by e-mail. That, and the fact that too many employees seem to let them. Interesting also, that this is a union initiative at a time when unions are being demonised by our coalition. I'd wager that VW won't suffer one iota because of this and maybe people should rethink what unions really do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Whilst I can understand this move having myself suffered the constant intrusion in the past I can't help but feel that the Chinese and other competitor nations will be chuckling.

    Another nail in the coffin of European competitiveness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    If you as an employee of a company do not have the self-restraint to stop yourself checking the company's e-mail out of hours you have self-control issues.

    Management-wise, if you as a manager run around spending your energy in fire-fighting low value events (and blackberrys are the crack-cocain of such a management style) you are doing the exact opposite of effective, competent management.

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    The key problem here is that when workers get a company phone they do not want to switch it off since they like to use it as their personal mobile! Hence why I have my own as well as a company one, so I can switch work off when I want to!

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

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

    Indeed. If you're one of ca 20 million ILLEGAL aliens, you don't have legal protection.

    BTW. I wish I were protected from reading propaganda from Chinese/Russian automated state hacking services.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    I am all for email to the phone and the positive benefits and efficiencies it brings to business. The one thing that is truly amazing is that my company still exists and thrives even though myself and other senior colleagues have been on an 11 hour flight without having access to email.

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Lucky workers. I wish I could just turn it off, however, my customers would not be too happy and i may lose them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    I remember when a lot of this kind of new technology was in its early days, pagers, email, mobile phones etc. For business users, this was all supposed to make our lives easier so we could concentrate on the main objectives. In reality it has blighted the lives of so many. I know so many people who no longer have a weekend to relax and recharge.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    #38: Agreed 100%. People should clearly have the choice not to receive emails from work if they don't need to and don't want to; on the other hand, I would not want to be in the situation where I cannot get emails in the evenings, at weekends, or when I'm on vacation - if only because I would much rather not have to deal with a constant backlog of messages.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    I applaud VW.
    Turning off the devices is simply not an option when your boss know you have it and expects replies posthaste or else. Of course, since we were notified that our jobs are being off-shored to a low wage country I have stopped checking my emails from home and the stress relief has been enormous. I haven't felt this happy and healthy in years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Another example of the nanny-state, the blackberry has an option to stop email forwarding at the handset. If people really let work email out of hours affect their home life - Stop email forwarding.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    @ 38 work life balance
    How? I think the unions have insisted on this as the culture has become "send x an e-mail" or "ring x on their (private) mobile".

    There is no "personal choice" if your boss contacts you out-of-hours, you are their subordinate and will probably be expected to explain yourself if you don't answer straightaway. If this is no longer possible, it will change the culture.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    21.Largactil Hat
    "You didn't used to work in the public sector did you? ;-)"

    What a stupid comment.

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    @29 Leng

    Why should people boycott VW because they let their employees have a home life - that makes no sense at all. They are talking about their own employees, not those of car dealerships. It's a far better policy than most big companies have regarding the ownership of the lives of their employees.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Just switch it OFF!

    Is that too difficult to do?

    The truth is of course is that work is addictive. Withdrawal symptoms will be seen and heard this weekend and it is a good bet that many Christmas day's will be punctuated by mobile phone checking - how sad!

    Get a life and leave your mobile (cellphone, handy etc) switched off for the week!

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    My wife is a school teacher and is refusing to have an email-equipped mobile because she knows she'll be expected to answer emails 24/7. Orwellian nightmare! People who constantly write emails think they will look efficient, but in reality they're just hounding people, even at home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    I'm not sure whether it's the right soution but employees are just that. If people wanted to be available 24/7 they would be self-employed.

    It's very important to "leave work" not like a BBC journo recently suggested that "holidays" were a thing of the past and that she enjoyed working while officially "off work"? How strange, the majority don't, they have lives to live, they don't live to work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    This is such a backward step - this should be about personal choice. With two young children I prefer sorting email at 10pm rather than being expected to be at my desk until 5 or 6pm and missing their bedtime. As a few people have said - you can turn these things off.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    All this talk of being contactable 24/7 is just nonsense. I can still remember the time, not so long ago, when there were no mobile phones and companies survived quite well until 9am the next morning!


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