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Volkswagen Turns Off E-mail After Work-Hours 377

Posted by Soulskill
from the we'll-fix-it-in-the-morning dept.
wired_parrot writes "Responding to complaints from employees that email outside of working hours was disrupting their lives, Volkswagen has taken the step of shutting their email servers outside work-hours. Other companies have taken similar steps, with at least one taking the extraordinary step of banning internal e-mail altogether. Is this new awareness of the disruption work email brings on employee's personal life a trend?"
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Volkswagen Turns Off E-mail After Work-Hours

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  • It won't last (Score:5, Insightful)

    by stevew (4845) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:14AM (#38472078) Journal

    I don't expect this to catch on...either that or it will move to some other social media vehicle like Twitter. Most companies LIKE the fact that they can get their employees free efforts after hours!

  • 8 to 5 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by varmittang (849469) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:16AM (#38472100)
    I don't check my email outside of business hours. If something breaks that needs fixing, call me, otherwise I can wait until tomorrow between 8 to 5.
  • by Pope (17780) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:17AM (#38472118)

    Seriously, just stop checking your work email device. Or shut it off. If you're not on-call or senior management, as TFA says, you're not in your working hours and should just ignore the damn thing.

  • Re:It won't last (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:17AM (#38472120)

    I don't expect this to catch on...either that or it will move to some other social media vehicle like Twitter. Most companies LIKE the fact that they can get their employees free efforts after hours!

    You mean.. most American companies LIKE to exploit their workers.

  • Re:Turn off sync (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Smallpond (221300) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:18AM (#38472130) Homepage Journal

    or ignore it.

    Seems like there should be plug-in timers for turning off pop/imap when you don't want to be bothered. I've read that to be efficient you should download and check your email no more than a couple of times per day. Have time set aside 1st thing in am, noon, and late afternoon to read and deal with it, and don't let it pop up, speak or distract you the rest of the day.

  • by Surt (22457) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:18AM (#38472132) Homepage Journal

    Most corporate IM systems log everything.

  • by Scutter (18425) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:20AM (#38472142) Journal

    Seriously, just stop checking your work email device. Or shut it off. If you're not on-call or senior management, as TFA says, you're not in your working hours and should just ignore the damn thing.

    It's not a technology problem. It's a cultural problem. It's easy to say "just ignore it!" but if your work culture expects it, then you're "not a team player" and it will eventually catch up to you. I recommend finding another company, personally, but in many areas the job market is pretty tough and having to be available after hours is better than not having a job.

  • Re:It won't last (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Samalie (1016193) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:21AM (#38472160)

    It can catch on.

    If only there was a group of individuals representing, say, 99% of the people already. With proper organization, they could stop camping in outdoor parks and actually start bringing attention to issues like this, where the average dumb schmuck is being intentionally bent the fuck over by the evil oppressive so-called "job creators" who have a disproportionate share of the wealth in western society.

    Without being facetious, in reality these are the kinds of issues the so-called occupy movements should be focusing on...things like this where the average employee is all but powerless to prevent having any balance between their work lives and their personal lives. In theory, it is these types of issues that the Occupy movement is about, but they're soo fucking unfocused and, well, hippie-like that any real thought of an agenda for these guys gets beat to shit.

    But this IS a problem. I am taking next week off my work (a whopping 3 working days here) and I had to get "special permission" to turn my fucking smartphone off & not be responsive to email. On my fucking vacation.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:27AM (#38472230)

    I grew a spine once. Immediately afterward, I was out of work for 19 months.

    captcha: hungry

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:29AM (#38472256)

    In Europe we take care of life quality more than in the US.

    In Germany average working hours are 35 per week, at 5 pm everybody is back home. They have about 30 days a year of vacation, and a very efficient and generous government-run welfare system that covers simply anything: retirement, healthcare, etc... Almost nobody pays for a private healthcare insurance, simply because they don't need it.

    However, average tax rates are quite high: about 50% of the gross income, including social security contributions.

    No room for tea-partiers in Germany, sorry...

  • by Kjella (173770) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:30AM (#38472268) Homepage

    So you call, and two minutes into the conversation it goes "I need to take a look at that log file..." or any other crunch time/shit hit the fan moment, then what? I leave my phone on 24x7 too, because I expect everyone to have good graces and not call me at 3 AM unless it's a really big emergency. It's a matter of culture, if you have to implement technical measures to stop people from acting like sociopaths you're doing it wrong. If people max the rules, then it won't be a nice place to work no matter what.

  • by grumling (94709) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:32AM (#38472290) Homepage

    The beauty of email is that it is asynchronous.

    That once was true, but in the blackberry infested world I live in, the difference between email and IM is negligible.

    Oh, except that the whole department chain of command is copied on every email (and adds their 2 cents), while most haven't figured out how to have more than a 2 way conversation on IM.

  • by cshark (673578) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:34AM (#38472314)

    What world do you live in?

    Email is ridiculous. It's highly prone to error. Overzealous blacklists and whitelists deny service to tens of thousands of email addresses that have done nothing wrong on a daily basis. Then you've got domain configuration requirements that vary considerably based on who's actually receiving the email, and an ambiguous chain of ownersip on most domains for the SOA that almost never ends up where you would think it should. Then, there's encryption. Some providers require it, others don't. Different kinds of encryption have different requirements, and there is now shortage of encryption standards you can use for email. Then in addition to the logistics nightmare noted above, you have firewall providers like Barracuda to contend with, that might ban you because the sky is blue, and there are birds in the trees. And after everything, as if none of this were bad enough, there has to be the end user, who still doesn't know how to use the fucking service to begin with. You know, the one that gets upset because they don't have an email that they think should be coming in. You know, the one that doesn't understand that their email client (and everyone else's) has junk mail settings.

    I hate email. I really hate email. I've hated email since the first day anyone ever asked me to manage it. It's a drain on resources, for something that is (in practical terms) not much more useful than a file locker. I think VW is taking a step in the right direction, but that it needs to be more drastic. Employees are wasting a lot of time on email, and it's disrupting their standard of life, and ability to operate. It's clear what they need to do. They need to abolish it outright, and move on to collaboration tools that make sense in the workplace. Any and all of which would be easier to manage, and far more reliable.

  • Re:It won't last (Score:4, Insightful)

    by causality (777677) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:39AM (#38472392)

    I don't expect this to catch on...either that or it will move to some other social media vehicle like Twitter. Most companies LIKE the fact that they can get their employees free efforts after hours!

    This applies on the personal level in terms of what kind of manager someone is, and on the corporate level in terms of what kind of company it is and the culture they have.

    There are of course companies that try to squeeze the most out of everyone with no regard to the impact this has on morale, that treat the employees like furniture or machines. They are looking at short-term productivity. There actually are companies that take a longer view. They realize that happy, enthusiastic workers who feel like they are respected as human beings are actually more productive and more willing to go above and beyond what it takes to merely avoid disciplinary action. It's more of an investment that pays dividends. It's as simple as tit-for-tat: treat your people well and they'll treat you well in return, even when you're not looking.

    They encourage a culture of people who are "on board" in more ways that those of a mere mercenary, who actually do want the company to succeed and grow. It's a type of mind-share not available to the "crack the whip and make sure they know their place" style of management. That kind of management might seem effective in the short term but it's suffocating. Eventually it drives away everyone who is talented enough to be marketable and find better positions elsewhere, leaving the company with those who are stuck because they can find nothing better and then de-motivating them.

    I think part of the problem with IT is that it's viewed as a maintainence function, like building repair or janitorial services. It's not a sexy bread-winner like the sales department. It tends towards reminding you how replacable you are while under-valuing just how much downtime can actually cost. There really are companies who value in-house expertise and who treat their workers with respect without regard for the type of work they do. They don't do it because they are such saints, of course, but because it works every time it's tried.

    There are too many managers and other authority figures who think that once they obtain a title, their word is the decree of some kind of god. They don't feel that a certain responsibility goes along with that and have no idea what it's like to actually earn the confidence of their subordinates. They tend to alienate everyone who works with them. They are also more likely to be the sociopathic types who were willing to say and do anything to obtain that position in the first place and are now more concerned with being in charge than with making wise decisions.

  • Re:It won't last (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:40AM (#38472404)

    You do understand the difference between a professional salaried employee versus an hourly employee right?

  • Re:It won't last (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheSpoom (715771) <slashdot@ubermMONET00.net minus painter> on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:45AM (#38472474) Homepage Journal

    With proper organization

    See, it's here where it all falls apart.

  • Re:It won't last (Score:5, Insightful)

    by GreatBunzinni (642500) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:54AM (#38472586)

    Without being facetious, in reality these are the kinds of issues the so-called occupy movements should be focusing on...things like this where the average employee is all but powerless to prevent having any balance between their work lives and their personal lives.

    The concept of a group of workers organizing themselves in order to achieve common goals, such as better working conditions, isn't new. That's the definition of a trade union [wikipedia.org].

    Remind me again why the average US citizen is so violently opposed to the existence of trade unions, let alone joining one?

  • Re:It won't last (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@b ... h u d s o n .com> on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:57AM (#38472628) Journal
    Just because you're a professional doesn't mean they own you 24/7 - unless YOU let them.
  • Re:It won't last (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CimmerianX (2478270) on Friday December 23, 2011 @11:59AM (#38472662)

    Step 4 - Get fired from your job.

    Step 5 - Job hires a tech who has been unemployed for 9 months who is more than willing to be on call after hours for less pay.

    Step 6 - You start looking for new work, and you and now more than willing to be on call for a job as well.

  • Re:It won't last (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bhtooefr (649901) <bhtooefr&bhtooefr,org> on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:15PM (#38472844) Homepage Journal

    Largely because unions have gone too far in some industries in the US - the public sector unions have made it so that it's extremely difficult to get rid of poor workers (and in the case of the USPS, the unions have actually made it so that the USPS cannot lay off workers for any reason, meaning that to scale down, the USPS either has to fire 100% of their employees and rehire, which would cause MASSIVE disruption of service, or go out of business entirely (which, well, there are politicians calling for the USPS to be shut down)), and the autoworkers unions have demanded extremely high benefits that have helped make the auto industry in the US uncompetitive.

    And, US-style unions actually promote mediocrity - if you are actually more capable, and do more, you get written up by the union for taking work away from a brother.

    Also, there is the fact that the corporate-owned media says that the whole idea of a union is evil.

    Unions can do a lot of good, but the kind that we have here... not so much.

    Of course, single-payer healthcare and maybe a GOOD retirement system would actually go a long way towards reducing the negative influence that unions have...

  • Re:WHAT?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by schnell (163007) <me@scLAPLACEhnell.net minus math_god> on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:23PM (#38472954) Homepage

    accepting calls and emails after hours at no extra pay

    See, I don't see it like that. There are many after-hours work calls or e-mails that I actually *want* to get because someone is helping me resolve a time-sensitive issue or because we are in different timezones and our calendars are all full during the day. The calls/e-mails after hours that I don't want, I simply ignore until the next morning. I also travel frequently for work and we will have all-day travel plus customer meetings/dinner that adds up to some very long days. But I have never tried to say that I won't be on an airplane or doing work-related tasks outside of 9-5 pm Monday-Friday.

    My colleagues all have the same attitude, where work outside business hours is expected but nobody seems to mind too much, since generally if we put in a lot of extra hours one week, most of us will leave early or otherwise dial back some other week to make up for it. I get paid a pretty good salary to work outside strict "business hours" but I wouldn't put up with being called at 3 am for a firedrill or anything like that.

    I'm very genuinely curious about this... whenever I see this discussed on Slashdot, I get the feeling that the majority of posters seem to be IT workers who are upset about being called/interrupted to resolve issues off-hours and hence the mindset about the extra work for no extra pay (that would certainly bother me too). It's definitely not the way I think about my job (I'm a product manager) but I get the feeling my situation is not the norm here. Is the issue that most Slashdotters are "on the clock"/have different job types than me, or is it just the attitude towards work in general?

  • Re:It won't last (Score:4, Insightful)

    by arkane1234 (457605) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:36PM (#38473098) Journal

    Neither does serfdom.

  • Re:It won't last (Score:5, Insightful)

    by supercrisp (936036) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:45PM (#38473220)
    I have limited experience with being a union worker, but in both cases, the union promoted good work, supported good workers, and bad workers met with peer pressure to get out or get good. I don't know about the UAW or whatever union the post office has. But I am pretty sure that a lot of stuff said about unions is no more true than stuff said about gay people, "colored" people, etc.. In other words, I bet a lot of it is a bunch of divisive lies spewed by "1%" to keep the "99%" distracted and effectively disenfranchised.
  • Re:It won't last (Score:2, Insightful)

    by KlomDark (6370) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:47PM (#38473256) Homepage Journal

    Your wife and kids think you are a big pussy.

  • Re:WHAT?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by IdolizingStewie (878683) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:58PM (#38473390)
    I'm glad I'm not the only one. If I get a call after hours, I know it's because somebody was on the scene and couldn't fix it, so had to escalate it. That means it's not a small problem, and it needs to be solved now. I'm salary, yeah, so I don't get explicitly paid for that, but making six figures at 25, I figure it's kinda built in. A salary compensates for all the work you do. If it's not high enough, change it, but that doesn't explicitly mean you deserve overtime at the same rate. Maybe the company came up with that salary figuring in extra hours.
  • Re:It won't last (Score:4, Insightful)

    by artor3 (1344997) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:59PM (#38473396)

    Astounding. You know that the corporate media is filling your head with lies about unions, and even say as much, and yet in the very same post you repeat those lies as gospel. If ever there was a clear demonstration of the insidious power of propaganda, this is it.

  • Re:It won't last (Score:4, Insightful)

    by vux984 (928602) on Friday December 23, 2011 @01:25PM (#38473718)

    I have seen this (from a union member): arrive at job site, sit in trucks for 45 minutes, get out, turn a knob/fiddle with stuff for 5 minutes, get back in truck for 45 minutes, walk up to customer, ask for signature, get back in truck, wait 15 minutes, drive off property.

    I have seen this: (from a non union member): arrive at job site, perform task booked for 2hrs in 5 minutes, drive truck accross street to the park, take 1.75hr nap, drive off.

    Lazy irresponsible people are everywhere.

  • Re:WHAT?! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Friday December 23, 2011 @01:41PM (#38473942)

    I don't agree. If you're salary and making 6 figures it's because you provide a valuable service for your 40 hours a week, so much that the company doesn't want to risk losing you as they might to contractors who are always looking for their next gig.

    Salaried employee doesn't mean "free overtime", it probably doesn't mean punch-in/punch-out either, but I work for a large company you've probably heard of and management truly believes salaried employee means 60 hours on an average week, and nights+weekends at their judgement. That's just an abuse.

    With all that said, I don't consider email (provided there is no requirement I respond) to be the greatest evil. Spending all 60 hours of my week in meetings because management has a poor, inefficient organization, staffed with "just good/cheap enough" labor for a job category, split across several countries, with the expectation that I train these weasels, that's the evil.

  • Re:It won't last (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 23, 2011 @02:07PM (#38474270)

    I don't know... I sort of like unions. They gave us stuff like:

    Weekends.
    Holidays off.
    Sick time.
    Worker's comp.
    Vacation time.
    40 hour work-weeks in theory.
    Pension plans.

    Oh, they took our kids out of the coal mines and allowed them to get an education, which means they might be able to compete against the Chinese children who get calculus 101 in the eighth grade, or the Europeans who already know 3-5 languages before high school.

  • Re:WHAT?! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by scamper_22 (1073470) on Friday December 23, 2011 @02:14PM (#38474370)

    It's not the norm. I often tell my fellow engineers and IT people. It's not that government, finance, and business are evil. It really is that they don't 'know' any better.

    Most of my friends are not in engineering/tech. They all have this perception we're all making Google-like salaries, working as professionals... not much different from lawyers or doctors.

    Now back in reality... IT/engineering is not a profession. As a group, we are just worker bees. Albeit, well-paid worker bees for some of us.

    I was like you when I first graduated. I didn't view it as a 9-5 job. I solved issues quickly, I shipped well. I took emails at varying hours. I had a lot of passion for the products. I quickly realized... it all didn't matter. Unless I wanted to change career paths into product management or something. So I do just work my basic work now and treat it as a job.

    So what are my beefs with working extra hours?
    1. Management treats us like fungible parts. So well... I've learned to act like a fungible part (9-5 worker) I can't count the number of times our teams have been reorged and thrown different projects different ways. There is absolutely no treatment for knowledge/maintenance of the product/system.

    2. Similar to 1, but I'm not about to play super-hero engineer again and again and again for something I know would be better done if was treated as more of a profession. Keep things staffed properly. Keep quality people and engineers. Keep senior people. We just had a reorg at my work and they laid off several very good senior staff. Yeah... of course they want the rest of us to pick up the slack. Good luck with that.

    And yes I know this is a feedback loop. If we acted more like professionals, we'd be treated like them. Unfortunately, I can't change the system on my own... and there are enough poor people in the world and immigration to keep a nice supply of fungible parts.

    And yes, the world of product management is different. I've drank with you guys enough times :P I have nothing against anyone busines/finance/product. It is more about how engineers/IT folks have treated their own work and profession and not stood up for their interests which in the end align with the interests of an efficient business.

  • by andersh (229403) on Friday December 23, 2011 @03:24PM (#38475290)

    That's the most stupid argument I've heard Americans use. An old and tired "argument" of no significance.

    The Germans have their own armed forces, perfectly capable and well equipped. The US is not defending Germany or Europe. Those bases in Germany are there to serve US interests abroad. Much further away.

    Greece and Spain are not the greatest markets for German products, the whole world buys from Germany. China is a major customer of German goods. If the Euro becomes cheaper it will just help their export economy.

    Socialism is not a problem, except in your imagination, I'm sorry, but there are plenty of successful "socialist" states in Europe. From Germany to Sweden. The Greeks are not an example of socialist malpractice, they're an example of corruption, mismanagement and overspending.

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.

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