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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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  • WHAT?! (Score:5, Funny)

    by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:13PM (#38472072)
    Here I was thinking that we were supposed to be connected to our jobs 24x7, accepting calls and emails after hours at no extra pay:

    http://it.slashdot.org/story/11/12/02/1350229/us-senator-proposes-bill-to-eliminate-overtime-for-it-workers [slashdot.org]

    Oh, wait, Volkswagen is not an American company. Carry on then, respecting your workers and whatever it is that you foreigners do...
    • Re:WHAT?! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by schnell (163007) <me&schnell,net> on Friday December 23, 2011 @01:23PM (#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:WHAT?! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by IdolizingStewie (878683) on Friday December 23, 2011 @01:58PM (#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:WHAT?! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Austerity Empowers (669817) on Friday December 23, 2011 @02:41PM (#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.

          • by LDAPMAN (930041)

            Being on salary, which in most cases also means being "exempt", explicitly means you are NOT on the clock. It explicitly means that they are not required to pay you overtime. It explicitly means that You have agreed to do X for $Y. If X requires more than 40 hours and you aren't willing to give it then go get another job, negotiate a raise, or change to being an hourly employee.

            • by rtb61 (674572)

              It is really a much more complex issue with no simple answers. Is the employee a family person that has children to look after, how far from the place of work do they live, how often a after hours demands made, how complex and difficult are the problems to deal with, how well staffed is the company and, do the employees like the odd intoxicant.

              On the company side, is the company running short handed to squeeze up profits, is another shift required that the company refuses to pay for, is the after hours w

      • Re:WHAT?! (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 23, 2011 @02:00PM (#38473402)

        Personally, I want to know if there's a problem in my datacenter at 3:30 a.m. so I'm not surprised with multiple alarms and users in panic when I come into the office at 8:00 to find a dozen or more helpdesk tickets in my queue and no one able to access their network drives. Similarly, I definitely want to know if the IDS has identified an intrusion at the firewall that requires my personal attention to address, or a DDoS attack on our website that may have taken us down and is costing us money due to lost revenue. I'm paid to handle these problems, whenever and wherever they occur and I am expected to respond, day or night to resolve them before the issue turns into a crisis. It's in my contract.

      • Re:WHAT?! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by iluvcapra (782887) on Friday December 23, 2011 @02:10PM (#38473506)

        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 demand on time is self-fulfilling: you have to address an issue at 9PM because the dependent factor needs it at 10PM, who will be behind if he doesn't have his shit done by 2AM for Mumbai. If you make everyone go-the-hell home then the problem can wait. In the end I think a big part of the evening email correspondence is about employees punishing each other and using their evening uptime to compete with each other and make people who have social lives and families look bad. It isn't very productive and companies that see that sort of dynamic should just take away the toys.

        Keeping the furnace running or the servers is a different matter, but why would artists and sales people need to be on call 24-7?

      • This doesn't seem to stop that; you can still exchange phone numbers and personal email addresses with co-workers if you would like to collaborate on projects outside of work hours. Shutting down the official company mail server sends a very clear, and very much needed message; you can leave work at work if you so choose. It isn't healthy to have your job chase you home; if you choose to do that I am not in the least upset, but there does need to be official motions put in place to stop the encroachment of
      • Re:WHAT?! (Score:4, Insightful)

        by scamper_22 (1073470) on Friday December 23, 2011 @03:14PM (#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 CAIMLAS (41445)

        I work in IT as a sysadmin. I love my job - the people I work with directly, the people I support, and the systems I work with.

        I'm also a bit a workaholic. I expect to have to do some work after-hours; however ,the expectation of management is that I work all the time. "You work until the job is done" is their expectation, based on the fact that I'm salaried. All the while, they're not understanding of personal obligations outside of work, and fully expect me to work (literally) all the time. It's little th

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

    by stevew (4845) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:14PM (#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!

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

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:17PM (#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.

      • by Baloroth (2370816)
        Right. Wait, Foxconn [yahoo.com] is American, right?
      • by fafaforza (248976)

        The fact that this had to be negotiated with the union, and the distinction is being made that this does not necessarily apply to all situation, indicates that the same employer practices are happening on either side of the Atlantic.

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

          by oxdas (2447598) on Friday December 23, 2011 @02:24PM (#38473712)

          The German system of both unions and corporate governance are very different than America. In Germany, workers must have just under half of all seats on the board of directors (although the president of the board comes from the shareholders). This makes workers and unions influential in setting the corporate direction of all German companies above 2,000 people. The idea of a union in many countries is also very different. In the United States, unions are adversarial organizations. In many countries, however, unions are cooperative groups that work for the best of the workers and company as a whole. It is important to also note that the idea of companies existing solely to benefit shareholders is not the dominant paradigm in most countries.

        • Atlantic Dis-Union (Score:5, Informative)

          by andersh (229403) on Friday December 23, 2011 @03:14PM (#38474374)

          There's absolutely no way you can compare the various European countries with the US. There's just so much variety here in Europe, not a single country looks or acts like the US labor market. The UK, while English-speaking and Common Law, is still "socialist" by comparison.

          To say nothing of the much more "socialist" Scandinavian countries [where I live]. In my country the unions work in cooperation with the employers' union. If there's a dispute the government's negotiator will do his job and find a reasonable compromise. I believe this describes Germany as well. Unions are not like and do not behave like American "unions".

          My country has been ruled by a Labor government more or less since the early 1900s, and both employers and workers are firmly in agreement about what is acceptable practices. Everyone from government ministers to CEOs leave work at 16-17 to pick up their children in the kindergarten/after-school program or go home to eat dinner. While there are people that work later than that, here we emphasize a work/life balance, and the employers understand.

    • by tomhudson (43916)

      Most companies LIKE the fact that they can get their employees free efforts after hours!

      If you're not getting paid for it, don't do it - you have only yourself to blame.

      Or pull an Apple - leave your phone at a bar ...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

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

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

          by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@D ... com minus painte> on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:57PM (#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 Samalie (1016193) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:21PM (#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 0racle (667029)
        Who had to occupy VW to get this to happen?
        • by BergZ (1680594)

          Who had to occupy VW to get this to happen?

          According to TFA: That would be the VW workers' union.
          I'd call this move a solid victory for the working man brought about by collective bargaining.

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

        by TheSpoom (715771) <slashdot@@@uberm00...net> on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:45PM (#38472474) Homepage Journal

        With proper organization

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

      • by tomhudson (43916)
        Other options:

        1. Buy a cheap throw-away phone, no email, no text. Give them that number instead of the smartphone.

        2. The regulators in the US have ruled (it was Optimal Robotics that was bending the rules, not paying for techs who were on call to fix UScans) that if you're "on call", you're "on the clock" and have to get paid for it - even if they don't call you.

        3. Tell them your religious beliefs don't let you conduct business outside of business hours unless you're paid for it (you worship at the t

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

          by CimmerianX (2478270) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:59PM (#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 GreatBunzinni (642500) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:54PM (#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?

        • by grumling (94709)

          If we had a choice in trade unions, maybe we'd want to be part of one. As it stands, if you want to form a union you have to be represented by an affiliate of the AFL/CIO, an entity not exactly known for their honesty and above-the-board behavior.

          • by ryanov (193048)

            That is not accurate. The Teamsters are not a member of the AFL/CIO and I doubt they are the only one.

            And frankly, "no?" What do you mean?

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

          by bhtooefr (649901) <bhtooefr@bhtooef[ ]rg ['r.o' in gap]> on Friday December 23, 2011 @01:15PM (#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:It won't last (Score:5, Insightful)

            by supercrisp (936036) on Friday December 23, 2011 @01:45PM (#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.
            • by Orgasmatron (8103)

              My brother was an electrician doing low voltage work for St. Mary's Hospital (aka, the Mayo Clinic). This was many years ago, before the change to the newer, fancier "power limited" terminology.

              He worked hard, and he felt that he should work 8 hours when he was getting paid for 8 hours, so any crew he was on did very well. Eventually, he became a supervisor with his own crew. That was when the problems started.

              His crew was around 75% retired firefighters. Firefighters retire with a pension very early, u

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

            by artor3 (1344997) on Friday December 23, 2011 @01:59PM (#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, Informative)

            by houghi (78078) on Friday December 23, 2011 @02:41PM (#38473946)

            I think it is due to the way Unions work in the USofA. As far as I understand you have no choice in what Union you get. You get into the Union of that profession.

            e.g. if you are a screen writer, you go to the screenwriters union or you can't even get a job at certain companies.

            We communist Europeans believe a bit in choice. I can get to any of three Unions. OK, Three is not a big choice, but it is more then one.
            I also can decide NOT to go to a union. If a union gets a deal done, this will be done for ALL employees, not only union members.

            Oh and on Unions and media. Yesterday the strike in Belgium included part of the media.

          • by praxis (19962)

            The US auto industry is not uncompetitive because of their unions, but because of their lack of engineering quality and desirable designs. What the unions ask for in the US is a subset of what workers already enjoy in most other civilised countries.

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

      by causality (777677) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:39PM (#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.

  • Turn off sync (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:14PM (#38472082)

    or ignore it.

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

      by Smallpond (221300) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:18PM (#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 0123456 (636235) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:20PM (#38472140)

        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.

        If you ignore your email then people start phoning you, which is far more distracting.

  • 8 to 5 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by varmittang (849469) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:16PM (#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.
    • Re:8 to 5 (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tixxit (1107127) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:42PM (#38472428)
      I had one coworker who was upset that people expected her to immediately respond to e-mails (during working hours). To drive home the point that e-mail is NOT an interactive communication medium and it is unreasonable to expect an immediate reponse, she decided to look at her e-mails only twice per day (literally closing her mail client inbetween). She told everyone that anything which needed an immediate response should be communicated in person or on the phone. It worked well!
      • by Vancorps (746090)

        The type of job greatly determines how successful this tactic can be. In most positions email is preferred specifically because there is a documented trail of communication so when one company agrees to do something it's not just a verbal agreement. Internal communications you can probably get away with this but in this litigious world the more evidence you have the better assuming you are on the right side of an argument that is.

        I haven't encountered anyone in years that don't reply to emails throughout t

  • by Xest (935314) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:17PM (#38472110)

    The thing about banning internal e-mail was originally labelled by the press of doing away with e-mail altogether, which it wasn't. The article on it on the BBC was actually quite interesting, I was dismissive of the idea at first, but it was a pretty good article and worth opening your mind to.

    My only concern is about auditing, if communications occur by IM, then where is the audit trail?

    • by Surt (22457) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:18PM (#38472132) Homepage Journal

      Most corporate IM systems log everything.

      • by Xest (935314)

        The issue is that in the article the CEO of the company in question was talking about kids chatting through Facebook etc. rather than specific corporate IM systems. Whether he meant by this that he was intending to let his younger employees communicate via Facebook at work, or whether he was planning to use such a corporate IM system as you mention is the grey area in the article. As someone else pointed out in response to me also, I had my suspicions this was a way around e-mail audit trail logs, but perha

    • by Trepidity (597)

      where is the audit trail?

      Maybe I'm cynical, but I'm going to guess this is seen as a feature rather than a bug. Evidence of malfeasance has been dug up out of corporate email archives in enough lawsuits that lots of them are actively looking for how to just generally reduce the existence of discoverable paper trails in the first place.

      • by Chelloveck (14643) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:34PM (#38472322) Homepage
        It's not even cynical, it's a statement of fact. I've had corporate lawyers tell me flat out, "Don't save anything. Delete all email after 30 days. Don't save IM logs. If we're in a court situation and the other side is subpoenaing our email records, they *will* be able to take innocent messages out of context and make them sound damning. Don't make it easy for them."
        • by Vancorps (746090)

          Talk about bad legal counsel. Our's says set a reasonable policy necessary to get work done and then be consistent about it. If you're deleting all emails after 30 days then that is sufficiently different from the norm to make it look like your business is trying to hide or destroy evidence. This has caused problems in lawsuits as well. Appearances are everything when it comes to a lawsuit.

          As for disabling internal email and only using IM services then presumably we're not talking about Windows Live or GTa

  • by Pope (17780) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:17PM (#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.

    • by Scutter (18425) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:20PM (#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.

      • by Pope (17780)

        It's not a technology problem. It's a cultural problem.

        QFT. I think that's the more pressing part of the problem. My last job moved everyone away from desktops to laptops so that we could have flexible hours/work from home when needed. There was also some "on call" idea that never went beyond a fantasy in our director's fevered imagination.

        In reality, I had to lug this stupid thing back and forth on transit every day and on very rare occasions had to do before or after hours work. A downloadable VPN/Citrix client for my home machine would have been far

  • This is idiotic. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NeutronCowboy (896098) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:21PM (#38472150)

    The beauty of email is that it is asynchronous. I can send an email, and people will get to it when they can. It's worldwide, near instant, and pretty much perfect delivery. I don't have to worry about them sitting at their desk right this moment, or be working right this moment. Write detailed email, send, and wait for reply. If it's urgent, follow up with a phone call, but otherwise, it's fire and forget.

    If Volkswagen is turning off the email servers, I can't even do that. I actually have to wait to send the email until they are working, and that might mean that I have to work while I'm supposed to be off. After all, my working hours might not coincide with theirs.

    I can't see this last very long. Besides, the solution is obvious and much less technically complex: have people not answer their email after working hours. Yes, it takes practice, but I've learned to ignore my crackberry after hours. If it's urgent, people will call.

    • by grumling (94709) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:32PM (#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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cshark (673578)

      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, other

      • by Kjella (173770)

        For all the rant and rage, internal email + smartphones are practically IM devices if you want, internal delivery has always been quick and painless. External e-mails are another matter, but by volume that's a small part of it.

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        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.

        ...

        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.

        If you're having such problems with email on your corporate network (presumably the same place you'd use these collaboration tools that make sense in the workplace), maybe you need a better mail admin.

        I manage email for a mid-sized business (btw 500 - 1000 mailboxes depending on how you count) and we have none of the problems you mention. We have a spam filter (well two, one open source filter for pre-filtering and one commercial filter) and users can manage their own block lists. They can search their quar

    • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:48PM (#38472512) Homepage

      If Volkswagen is turning off the email servers, I can't even do that. I actually have to wait to send the email until they are working

      Um, they're not turning off _your_ mail server, they're just turning off their own.

      Way back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, cavemen using primative SMTP servers fashioned from stone knives, bear skins and RFC 821 figured out how to store and forward email, and if the remote server was not available then to try again later. If your SMTP service is unable to deliver mail despite transient errors then please contact your network administrator about it.

      If you are your network administrator, but have misconfigured your mail server, there is no need for ritual suicide. You can cleanse yourself of most of the shame by reading the appropriate documentation and fixing the problem.

    • by geekmux (1040042)

      The beauty of email is that it is asynchronous. I can send an email, and people will get to it when they can. It's worldwide, near instant, and pretty much perfect delivery. I don't have to worry about them sitting at their desk right this moment, or be working right this moment. Write detailed email, send, and wait for reply. If it's urgent, follow up with a phone call, but otherwise, it's fire and forget.

      If Volkswagen is turning off the email servers, I can't even do that. I actually have to wait to send the email until they are working...

      Uh, TFA clearly points out that this affects users ability to receive new email on their Blackberry devices after hours...that's a pretty damn far cry than what was implied here that they were "turning off email servers" and causing SMTP failures, which servers are usually configured to retry the email for up to 3 days, so it's not exactly as bad as you think...fire and forget still works just fine. Users will simply receive the email sync the next workday.

    • by Pope (17780)

      They're not "shutting them off" completely, that would be stupid. They're just not routing emails to Blackberrys outside normal working hours. Makes sense to me. Hell, this way it leaves the phone part working in case of actual emergencies.

    • If Volkswagen is turning off the email servers, I can't even do that. I actually have to wait to send the email until they are working, and that might mean that I have to work while I'm supposed to be off. After all, my working hours might not coincide with theirs.

      Uhm, no. You can still write and send your e-mail message whenever you want. Your local SMTP server will hold the message until their SMTP server is back online (generally it will retry for up to 4 days, depending on SMTP server settings).

      Now,

  • by sandytaru (1158959) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:21PM (#38472158) Journal
    It wouldn't be so bad if email was entirely passive. However, these days people get email on their phones, and emails marked as urgent can be programmed to ring the phone. Employees emailing something as urgent may not quite recognized that "take care of this first thing tomorrow morning" urgent isn't the same as "the plant is on fire" urgent.
    • by rhsanborn (773855)
      If the plant is on fire, they shouldn't be sending an email. That sounds trite, but professionally, people need to learn the relative priorities of different modes of contact. I check my email 3-4 times a day, and maybe once in the evening. The result is that you better plan on waiting upwards of 4 hours for a response. If you needed a quicker response, you should have called or walked to my office. If you do one of those things, it had better be worth it.
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:22PM (#38472170) Homepage

    They should just do what my company does, which is acknowledge that while we are salaried, it's unethical to lean on that to squeeze out a lot of unpaid work. It's this revolutionary idea that "can" doesn't mean "should" which in this day and age of minimalist ethics which are bound to the razor edge of what the letter of the law or contract allows is too radical for many managers.

  • Volkwasgen (Score:5, Funny)

    by sunderland56 (621843) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:27PM (#38472234)
    Apparently they turned off spell checking as well.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:29PM (#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 assertation (1255714) on Friday December 23, 2011 @02:18PM (#38473634)

      Are you accepting American immigrants?

  • by Kjella (173770) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:30PM (#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.

  • Wait A Minute! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:34PM (#38472318)

    The article doesn't clearly state it, but VW does NOT shutdown its email system. They stop emails from being pushed to individual users' Blackberrys when the user's shift is over. The email continues to flow into their inbox, and the Blackberry still enjoys a flood of email 30 minutes before their shift starts the next day. It's actually a nice feature of Blackberry and Exchange software that they simply turned on.

    This does not reduce the number of emails that they get or the spam or anything else. It just stops delivery to the Blackberry after hours.

  • Turn off automatic notifications and don't check your email outside working hours.

    Volkswagen's solutions fixes the symptoms, but not the cause. Besides, when you _do_ need to send a message outside working hours, how are you supposed to do that?

    • by russotto (537200)

      Volkswagen's solutions fixes the symptoms, but not the cause. Besides, when you _do_ need to send a message outside working hours, how are you supposed to do that?

      Call them. The Blackberry still works as a phone.

      If the "push" is turned off, can a Blackberry user still do a manual "pull"? I'm not familiar with Blackberry.

  • Crazy idea here, what about *not* taking your email when not at work?
    I know it's a long shot, but hey, it's worth a try...

  • Other motives (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Charliemopps (1157495) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:43PM (#38472450)
    Recently the company I work for implemented a new system that auto-archives your email after 2 weeks. You can go to the archive to view the mail, for up to 6 months. At 6 months it deletes the email. It may be saved elsewhere for a period before permanent deletion, I'm not sure. But I do know it gets irrecoverably destroyed at some point. You can not create a PST, and they've got services scanning the network and local hard drives for PSTs, then deleting them. Saving email in any way is a violation of our code of conduct. There's even a faq that poses the question "I found a print out of an email that is over 6 months old, I feel it is important, can I keep it? Answer: No, shred the document immediately."

    The company didn't try to hide their reasons. They told us flat out it was for legal liability. People are a tad too cavalier in what they'll put in an email, and later, in court, email is treated like formal marching orders rather than the casual conversation it often is. There is even talk of doing away with work email all together, again for liability reasons. All "Marching orders" should come in the form of formal documentation. We have a chat system that can not be set to archive conversations that we're to use for the types of casual work talk we used to use email for.

    From what the lawyers were telling me, industry wide legal advise is to get rid of email all together. They said a lot of companies are starting pilot projects to see how well their workers can do their jobs without it, and to get them used to the idea of not having it.
    • The company didn't try to hide their reasons. They told us flat out it was for legal liability.

      I neglected to bookmark it, but there has been at least one fairly high profile case where a company got in trouble for that kind of thing. IIRC, the court saw what was obvious to any lay person - a company policy of deleting email in order to reduce legal liability was essentially institutionalised destruction of evidence. I think the particular case it might have been wall-street related.

    • Deleting emails perminantly after 6 months? Active network scanning for saved messages and PSTs? Assuming it's not some fictional government black-hat firm or some secret brand of the DoD we're talking about, this sounds bat-shit insane. No public company could ever get away with this. In fact, the very policy of perminantly deleting emails older than 6 months would be enough to raise serious legal questions about the company...

      Getting rid of e-mail altogether is one thing, but then you go back to what -
    • In the financial industry, it's becoming modus operandi to only retain email for a 6-month period and then after that it's destroyed. We're being told that if something is important, we're going to be given a "15 month" folder to keep it in, after which, it will then be destroyed.

      There's an internal effort to reduce paper waste as well, so we're being told to not print emails. So basically, they are hoping we can commit everything to grey-matter, even though I deal with hundreds of documents a day.

      I fear we

      • by toriver (11308)

        Well, if the company gets accused of illegal activities and the Feds come around, such automatic procedures and aversion to leaving "paper trails" could be considered systematic proactive destruction of evidence...

  • by flyboy974 (624054) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:53PM (#38472568)

    A friend of mine use to work for Sony in Germany. They had a similar thing there. They would be disciplined for checking e-mail after work hours due to German labor laws. If you checked e-mail, it was considered overtime work. She said they went so far as to have security walk thru the building asking people to leave after 5:00pm.

    Also it was illegal to work on Sunday or Holidays. Again, checking email would qualify you as working, so they were very strict about remote VPN access on those days unless it was absolutely required.

    I'm not sure if Germany has relaxed these rules in recent years. If they haven't then the no-email after work sounds like they are trying to confirm with the law, not that they are trying to be nice.

  • This actually has become a real problem. I'm on call all the time unless on vacation or other exceptions. I get compensated for being on call, $35/day + 2 hour minimum call out for the first call out of the night. However, there's a lot of email alerts that go out over the blackberry that I check. According to the company, I'm supposed to record the time spent checking email after normal working hours. This includes if I get a phone call during lunch.

    This sounds great, but trying to keep track of that time

  • Why should I buy a car from a company where the employees aren't capable of managing themselves?
    So, what happens next. If an employee cannot be reached by email, do you call them? Then what? Will Volkswagen turn off their phones because the employees are complaining how much phone calls are disrupting their lives?
    Honestly, what a bunch of losers!

  • by Tom (822) on Friday December 23, 2011 @01:31PM (#38473060) Homepage Journal

    The feature that I've been waiting for pretty much ever since mobile phones became common is the ability to run two sim cards in the same phone and have a switch that can turn either or both on/off.

    I've always kept my work and private stuff seperate - e-mail, phone numbers, etc. - but if you don't want to carry two phones with you everywhere, that's actually very hard to do.

    I would love a phone that allows me to tell it "I'm at work now" and then enables the work-related mail account, phone number, etc. - outside work hours, all work-related stuff goes to voicemail, server-side inbox, etc. and with no notification.
    And the reverse is just as important - "not available for private things now" can be a crucial setting (the people who might have reason to reach you anyways in case of emergencies would have your work phone number anyways).

    So there are scenarios where you would want one enabled, but not the other. There are also scenarios where you would want both enabled, like when you're on the train during a business trip, or at your desk and don't mind getting private and/or work calls intermixed.

    I would really, really love a phone that supports something like that. I fear the general trend is still getting the boundaries between work and private life blurred more and more. Most people have no idea what they're doing to themselves there. Been there, done that, seen others burn out - don't do this. And find gadgets that don't do it to you.

  • Different approach (Score:5, Interesting)

    by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Friday December 23, 2011 @04:01PM (#38475028) Homepage Journal

    One approach to work/life balance is to strictly segregate them: Be at work, working, from 8-5, then be at home, not working.

    That's fine for people who want to do that, but it's not the only way to maintain a reasonable balance. I'm generally in the office from 7-4, but I'm not necessarily working all of that time. On average I spend 1-2 hours of each work day dealing with personal stuff -- keeping up with my bills, fielding phone calls about my kids at school (I have one daughter who is really challenging), out running errands for my wife. I probably spend another hour screwing around on-line: slashdot, G+, etc. Once in a while I even leave the office entirely for a two or three hours because I want to go to a kid's production at school, or because I feel like working out, or whatever. As a result, I don't feel in the slightest that I'm giving "my time" away to the company when I check e-mail in the evening. Heck sometimes I'm working on some particularly interesting bit of code and I even decide to work on it at night after the family is in bed... not because I feel obligated but because it's fun.

    For me, strictly segregating work and not-work would be a poorer work/life balance than having the flexibility to do non-work stuff during business hours and work stuff during non-business hours.

    I'd rather manage the balance myself than have the company mandate it one way or another. I understand that for people with driving personalities this can lead to excessive work, and I understand that some managers can see this as a way to wring every last minute from their employees. I don't have the first problem and the times I've had the second, I've fixed it by getting a different manager, one way or another.

    Beyond my personal preferences, I think the "strict segregation" approach is rather unnatural. It wasn't really even possible as a widespread lifestyle until the Industrial Revolution. Throughout human history, work and non-work have largely been inseparably mixed, both just parts of "life". I like it that way.

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