You Can’t Take It Home With You
German automaker tells its workers to just say nein to after-hours work.
Web2Carz Senior Writer
Published: December 29th, 2011
In perhaps the only known instance of Germans asking people to work less, Volkswagen has taken steps to ensure that its employees spend their off hours doing something other than working.
VW has programmed its Blackberry servers to stop sending e-mails to some of its employees 30 minutes after the end of their shift, and to resume 30 minutes prior to the start of their next shift.
Volkswagen isn’t merely being magnanimous, however. The move is part of a negotiated contract between the German automaker and trade union workers.
A spokesman for VW told the BBC News, “We confirm that this agreement between VW and the company’s work council exists,” but provided no further comment.
While this move seems unthinkable in the U.S., it does seem to be part of a larger trend in Europe, where many employers consider it a problem that some of their employees seem to have no life outside of the office.
Henkel, a British soap manufacturer, told its employees to refrain from sending e-mails between Christmas and New Year’s, except in case of emergency.
The most extreme example of this trend seems to be French IT company Atos, which plans to ban all internal e-mail, starting in 2014. Atos’ president Thierry Berton explained his decision to the BBC.
“I started to think [employees] were spending too much time on internal e-mails and not enough time on management,” Berton said. “So when we put all this together I started an in-depth study to see how many internal e-mails the 80,000 employees of Atos were receiving. We found on average it was over 100 e-mails per day. After further analysis, we realized they found 15 percent of the messages useful, and the rest was lost time.”
Berton also found that many of the new employees fresh out of university weren’t used to using e-mail, instead relying on instant messaging and social networking sites to communicate.
But whether this idea will catch on in this era of downsizing and nonsensical corporate demands to “do more with less,” remains to be seen. There does seem to be a growing desire among workers to add more quality time to their lives.
A survey given by Salary.com found that 39 percent of respondents would prefer extra time off to a $5,000-a-year salary increase. This was a 20-percent increase from three years earlier when the same survey was given.
“This new survey shows a continued growth of the trend among workers to change their priorities from work-first to more personal concerns," says Tim Driver, a VP at Salary.com. “Workers are saying they need a break from the stresses caused by increasing hours, reduced staff, and the push for more productivity.”
In the U.S., three-quarters of the nation’s employees work more than 40 hours a week. According to the International Labour Organization, American workers work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more than British workers and 499 more than French workers.
Okay, so the French workers thing isn’t that surprising, but still, maybe this time off thing is an idea whose time has come.Related Vehicles: volkswagen