December 24, 2011
VW Ceases After-Hours Communications With Some Employees
Officials at the largest automotive manufacturer in Europe have agreed to keep its Blackberry servers from sending emails to some employees when they are off the clock, various media outlets have reported.
According to BBC News reports, Volkswagen (VW) confirmed on Friday that it has agreed to keep emails from reaching workers when they are off-shift.
The British news agency added that the move was actually made earlier this year, following complaints from staff members that the boundaries between their home and work lives were beginning to blur.
The German carmaker will keep its servers from routing message traffic to employee Blackberry devices, starting 30 minutes after a shift, according to Bloomberg's Cornelius Rahn.
Those emails will resume 30 minutes before the start of the next work day, and will affect approximately 1,150 German employees who use the devices and are covered under collective bargaining agreements, Rahn added, citing Wolfsburger Allgemeine Zeitung reports.
"A deal has been reached" between labor representatives and the IG Metall union that will prevent the transmission of emails to those employees' company-issued Blackberrys between 6:15pm and 7:00am, an unnamed spokesman told the AFP.
In fact, the "truce" was "already in force," the source told the French news agency, adding that while the company felt the need to "make use of up-to-date means of communication," that they realized that "a balance needs to be struck" and that they felt that the deal "strikes such a balance."
The BBC notes that staff members can still use the devices to make calls, and that the new regulations did not apply to senior management within the company.
"We wanted to take a preventative approach to tackling the issue," Volkswagen Works Council Spokesman Gunnar Killian told the British media outlet. "At Volkswagen flexitime is between 0730-1745, with our new arrangement workers can only receive emails between 0700 and 1815."
Industry experts told BBC News that the move shows "growing awareness" of work-life conflicts and the negative impact they can have employees' personal and professional lives.
"It's bad for the individual worker's performance being online and available 24-7," Will Hutton, chair of the Big Innovation Centre at The Work Foundation, told BBC reporters. "You do need downtime, you do need periods in which you can actually reflect on something without needing instantaneously to give a reaction."
"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," he added. "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."
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