If you work at Volkswagen in Germany, your BlackBerry e-mail starts coming in 30 minutes before your shift, and 30 minutes after, thanks to a new union agreement. Senior staff are exempt from the new rule, who likely need to be accessible around the clock, though standard phone functions will still be available for everybody during off-hours.
This is a very progressive move, and shows how we might be able to reign in the always-connected lifestyle BlackBerry, and now smartphones at large, are promoting. The responsible thinking goes, “just because I can check my e-mail doesn’t mean I should”, but in practice, it’s hard to say no to a blinking red light.
The issue is one that both employees and their bosses are having issues coming to terms with; do you just turn off the faucet, like Volkswagen did here, and potentially lose some productivity, but gain some employee happiness? Or do you leave it on and expect employees to answer e-mails all night long, but offer overtime just for carrying around a smartphone? Of course, having a union on your side helps cement an agreement that’s favourable to the employee, while anyone else might have a hard time convincing their boss not to send e-mails after 6 PM.
How many work e-mails are you expecting to answer over the holidays? Is it fair for employers to ask workers to always be on call? Would you need extra compensation to be put in that position?