Auto Giant Frees Staff From BlackBerry Hell

Dennis Faas's picture

German automaker Volkswagen has agreed to ease the pressures on some of their employees by not forwarding emails to their BlackBerry handsets outside of work hours.

The change toward a better work-and-life balance was negotiated by trade unions, but will not affect non-unionized workers or those working in countries other than Germany.

Under the agreement, Volkswagen will reconfigure its email servers, which currently make sure all emails go straight to staff on the phones, even if they aren't currently logged in to a work-provided PC.

The switch will mean that email messages will be sent out only during work hours, and also for only a brief period (30 minutes) after the end of the work day.

Once the change becomes effective, email messages arriving during off-hours will be held and then forwarded to the intended recipient, starting 30 minutes before their next working day begins. As Volkswagen operates a "flexitime system", this means workers will be still eligible to get messages for more than 11 hours each day.

Volkswagen Managers Still Get 24/7 Email

The new rules cover 1,154 employees across six plants, but don't affect any employees in executive positions. There's also no sign of the new policy spreading across national borders to the rest of Volkswagen's 400,000 employees. (Source:

It seems Volkswagen employees haven't been alone in feeling the stresses of 24/7 availability. A recent study found that 88 per cent of workers in Germany are available around the clock to colleagues, managers, or company clients through email or mobile phone.

BlackBerry Fans Say Device Brings Flexibility

The change in policy at Volkswagen has sparked a debate about the increasing use of communications technology in business. Supporters of the BlackBerry and similar mobile devices argue that it doesn't have to mean more work for employees, and can instead offer them more flexibility.

Some workers who need to deal with email messages outside of working hours say they find it more convenient to do so at a quiet time of their own choosing, rather than having to complete this work immediately before or after a shift.

Others argue that the technology itself isn't a bad thing, and that the real problem is simply that people today expect very prompt responses to their emails. (Source:

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