Smart move by Volkswagen. Mobile technologies, in my own experience, can disrupt the delicate work-life-family balance. It is good to be "connected" but checking e-mail as often as you can, likely for many items that can wait until after dinner or the next morning is a trap. Of course, I suppose one could do this themselves but perhaps the employees felt a sense of having to use this service or perhaps it gave them a sense of belonging to always be "connected" to the office and their colleagues.
Pathology call aside, when my phone and I get home, it gets plugged in and rarely (OK – seldomly) gets checked before the next morning. I just get out my laptop and check e-mails… For the past year on family vacations I do leave my phone and iPad in the room and guess what – do not miss a darn thing that couldn't wait.
Speaks to digital pathology a bit – while you can review a case from anywhere, anytime which I have mentioned is one of the many value adds for the technology – should you or would you really want to? In some cases – you are the world's expert in a particular disorder and find yourself skiing in Switzerland when the call comes in. You may be able to help out someone. Out of the office at a research meeting and the afternoon is going to be spent on CS protein in the liver, a little outside your sphere of interest while that new client you attracted is now busy with their endoscopes and flooding your colleagues who could use a hand to maintain good service and turn around time? Sure. Done. Dedicated consults or make up for shortages or where demand exceeds supply. Quiet hotel room with high-speed networking. No reason not to.
In the meantime, hold off on e-mails that likely will wait a few more hours to be opened, read, responded to or trashed. The e-mail will wait for you patiently and not care.
Looks like this idea of turning off the e-mail server is gaining popularity in Europe.
The comments are worth a read on this as well. And I promise not to hound you with late night e-mails.
The carmaker confirmed it made the move earlier this year following complaints that staff's work and home lives were becoming blurred.
The restriction covers employees in Germany working under trade union negotiated contracts.
Campaigners warned that the move would not be suitable for all companies.
A spokesman for VW said: "We confirm that this agreement between VW and the company's work council exists", but would not comment further.
Under the arrangement servers stop routing emails 30 minutes after the end of employees' shifts, and then start again 30 minutes before they return to work.
The staff can still use their devices to make calls and the rule does not apply to senior management.
"We wanted to take a preventative approach to tackling the issue," said Gunnar Killian, VW's works council spokesman.
"At Volkswagen flexitime is between 0730-1745, with our new arrangement workers can only receive emails between 0700 and 1815."
The move follows criticism of internal emails by Thierry Breton, chief executive of the French information technology services giant, Atos. He said workers at his firm were wasting hours of their lives on internal messages both at home and at work. He has taken the more radical step of banning internal email altogether from 2014.
Last month the maker of Persil washing powder, Henkel, also declared an email "amnesty" for its workers between Christmas and New Year saying messages should only be sent out as an emergency measure.
Industry watchers say the moves reflect growing awareness of a problem.
"It's bad for the individual worker's performance being online and available 24-7. You do need downtime, you do need periods in which you can actually reflect on something without needing instantaneously to give a reaction," said Will Hutton, chair of the Big Innovation Centre at The Work Foundation.
"Secondly it has a poor impact on an individual's well-being. I think that one has to patrol quite carefully the borderline between work and non-work.
"So I can see why some firms are taking this action, the problem is that a universal response is impossible… but certainly we should have the capacity to be opted out of it rather than be opted in."
Union officials in the UK have also cautioned other firms against repeating Volkswagen's move without consultation.
"The issue of employees using Blackberrys, computers and other devices out of working time is a growing one that needs to be addressed as it can be a source of stress," Trades Union Congress (TUC) secretary general Brendan Barber told the BBC.
"However other organisations will need different solutions and what works in VW may not work elsewhere.
"By working in partnership with their union, Volkswagen's policy will have the support of all their employees. Where employers simply introduce policies on their own, however well-meaning they may be, they are unlikely to be successful."