When I see my students’ eyes and hands stuck to their smart phones in class, I often think, “Are you really that important that you can’t wait until the end of this session to check your e-mail to see if your manager has contacted you or you’re needed at work?” Addiction to e-mail is a growing concern, one that is taking those affected away from their families, friends, and others in their lives—including their college classmates and instructors.
However, if you want to stay connected with your job after work, you don’t want to be part of the staff at Volkswagen, Europe’s largest automotive company.
According to “Volkswagen Curbs Company E-Mail in Off Hours – NYTimes.com” by Reuters (December 23, 2011), Volkswagen labor representatives agreed with management that staff members “will receive e-mails via Blackberry from half an hour before they start work until half an hour after they finish.” In other words, this level of personnel in the corporation will have no access when not at work.
If you are a board-level executive, don’t worry. You will still be able to get your e-mails.
Why won’t staff get access to e-mails? At first, I thought it was to keep the company information confidential. The real reason, however, is a positive one: to keep business separate from personal time. According to the article, “Bitkom, a German technology organization, published a study this year showing that 88 percent of German workers are reachable for clients, colleagues and bosses by e-mail or mobile phone outside of working hours, compared with 73 percent two years ago.”
The basic reason for pulling the plug on e-mails was that Volkswagen was concerned that their employees were burning out. In Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, “burnout is blamed for almost 10 million sick days a year.” Burning out by checking e-mails when home is not a good return on the investment for an automotive or any company in Germany, Europe, or any country.
Thank you, Volkswagen! I hope that this sets the stage for those in the U.S. to set the same standard of allowing staff to work and also have a life.