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article imageVolkswagen shuts down workers' BlackBerry email service at night

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By Leigh Goessl     Dec 24, 2011 in Business
Automaker Volkswagen has shut down workers' BlackBerry email service at night as part of an agreement with labor representatives.
The reasoning behind this decision is to create a better work-life balance. Wolfsburger Allgemeine Zeitung was the first to report the story, according to Wired.
The decision to shut down email service at night was made to protect the 1,154 non-exempt Volkswagen employees from spending 24-hours around the clock attached to their work email. The BlackBerry can still be used for telephone purposes during 'blackout' times, email is the only capability that has reportedly been curbed.
The agreement specifies that unionized workers will see their email turned off a half-hour after the workday ends, and won't have email access again until a half-hour before the next workday begins.
At this time reports say this agreement only affects workers employed at Volkswagen's six plants in Germany working under collective bargaining, employees outside Germany are not a part of any BlackBerry use restrictions. Additionally, any executive level employees are also exempt from this new requirement.
Media outlets have been reporting in recent months that burnout has become an issue for many workers. Many other German companies, such as Deutsche Telekom and Henkel, have also imposed less stringent restrictions, recognizing the concept that too much connectivity isn't always a good thing and breaks are necessary.
Reuters reported, "German IT body Bitkom 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 only 73 percent two years ago."
According to Wolfsburger Allegemeine Zeitung, Heinz-Joachim Thust, the VW works council explained that modern communication capabilities "also pose dangers." Some members of management may expect staff are "always available" and receive emails after work hours. This agreement will curb that idea.
"The operating agreement provides that the server is for the BlackBerrys of exempt employees for half an hour before and half an hour down at the end of flextime," said Thust. "The agreement was received very positively."
RIM's BlackBerry device is often blamed for the advent of the work-life balance line being crossed. These days, in addition to the BlackBerry, there are many other additional methods to stay connected off-hours. This has high potential for essentially never ending the workday if a boss expects round-the-clock connectivity or an employee feels pressured to stay connected in order to keep their job.
New York Times reported earlier this year, "There’s a palpable sense “that home has invaded work and work has invaded home and the boundary is likely never to be restored,” says Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. “The new gadgetry,” he adds, “has really put this issue into much clearer focus.”
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