After-Hours Email?

SRxA’s Word on Health was interested to learn that German car-maker Volkswagen is shutting down its BlackBerry email server 30 minutes after the workday ends.  For now, this policy is limited to its German workforce and does not include senior management.

Is this the start of a new trend towards better work life balance?  Or is it a case of “be careful what you wish for”?

Proponents argue that the email shut down is a baby step attempt to solve the growing problem of a 24/7 work culture.  While most of us know that it’s neither healthy nor sustainable to be on call all the time, we just can’t seem to help ourselves.  And although most after-hours email is non-essential, we perceive it as equally important.  When’s the last time you went out for a date/ dinner/drinks and you didn’t pull out your cell phone, at least once to check your messages?  Be honest!

The VW email shut down was negotiated by the German Trade Union as a working-condition improvement for its members.  Although some workers argued that it should be up to each individual to decide what is best for them, others felt they had to maintain after hours connectivity or be fired.   Shutting down the email server, they argue, levels the playing field for all employees.

But does this move provide more flexibility or less?  Night owls and early risers, may be at their most productive outside of traditional working hours.

Or, does the ban provide an opportunity for people to look at their own values and begin to chart a healthier and more balanced life for themselves.  Could an email blackout lead to greater productivity and less wasted effort?

We’re not sure.  Although preventing people from checking and sending email at night may decrease stress for some, it could equally increase stress for those already addicted.  In our “company first” culture, will employees comply with the letter of the rule, or find ways to work around it?  Will people just stay at work later, or switch to texting?

Or, are people ready to step back and re-engage with values that put themselves ahead of the company.  Let us know what you think by participating in the poll.