Lockdown on employee email access

by 04 Jan 2012

In a move that bucks the trend of smartphone-induced 24-hour employee connectivity, German carmaker Volkswagen has agreed to deactivate emails on staff smartphone devices out of office hours, to give them a genuine break from work.

The ubiquitous iPhone and Blackberry have made employees the world over connected to the office 24/7 in recent years. As a consequence, HR professionals are beginning to realise that new policies need to be developed to lead workers towards a better work-life balance.

A spokeperson for VW confirmed that under an agreement with labour representatives, staff will be able to receive emails via their Blackberry from 30 minutes before they start work until 30 minutes after they finish.

Email connectivity for staff at Europe's biggest auto manufacturer will be in “blackout-mode” the rest of the time.

The new email regime applies to staff covered by collective bargaining, meaning board-level executives may still be slaves to their smartphone, but the drastic measure marks a change in global big business’ attitude towards work-life balance.

German IT body Bitkom published a study last year revealed that outside of working hours, a whopping 88 percent of workers are reachable for clients, colleagues and bosses by email or mobile phone. This was up from only 73 percent two years earlier.

In Europe's biggest economy, where burnout is blamed for almost 10 million sick days a year, labour representatives are looking to limit the amount of time that employees spend responding to emails at weekends and during vacation.

Volkswagen, which has about 400,000 employees worldwide, said the new policy would apply to around 1,150 non-managerial VW BlackBerry users, reported the Wolfsburger Allgemeine Zeitung.


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