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Volkswagen Turns Off E-mail After Work-Hours

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the we'll-fix-it-in-the-morning dept.

Businesses 377

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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377 comments

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WHAT?! (5, Funny)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 2 years ago | (#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...

It won't last (4, Insightful)

stevew (4845) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472078)

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 (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#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:It won't last (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472438)

Right. Wait, Foxconn [yahoo.com] is American, right?

Re:It won't last (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472508)

troll

Re:It won't last (1, Insightful)

Digicrat (973598) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472592)

Re:It won't last (2)

fafaforza (248976) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472620)

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 (2)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472134)

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:It won't last (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472404)

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

Re:It won't last (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472552)

You do understand that some professional "salaried" employees work for businesses that pay them for work over and above 40 hours a week, right? No, it's not many, and it's a lot fewer than there used to be, but that's because we as voters continue to reward those that pass laws that make it easier for "job creators" to lower wages for working people.

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

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472628)

Just because you're a professional doesn't mean they own you 24/7 - unless YOU let them.

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

Samalie (1016193) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:It won't last (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472294)

Who had to occupy VW to get this to happen?

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

TheSpoom (715771) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472474)

With proper organization

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

Re:It won't last (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472510)

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 temple of the almighty buck, same as they do).

Re:It won't last (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472534)

4. Deal with the issue head-on and solve it for good.

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

CimmerianX (2478270) | more than 2 years ago | (#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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472576)

You do it yourself. If you don't respect yourself, your boss won't respect you.

Get fired? Fine. You still have your self respect, which is much more valuable in the long run than a paycheck. I never answer for my work when I'm not on the clock.

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

GreatBunzinni (642500) | more than 2 years ago | (#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 (1)

grumling (94709) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472726)

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.

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

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472844)

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 (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472604)

The Occupy movement does little other than give the local popo a chance to use their new riot toys. At least in Houston, the protesters are getting felony charges now, so when arrested, they are not coming back. Two years in prison (and trust me, texas prisons are not the paradises you see on Lockup) will make people think twice, or just remove them from the population at large.

The real movers and shakers were Beck's two million in DC with his restoration of honor rally (and ZERO arrests due to that rally). That is why Congress dances to the Tea Party's tune now.

Re:It won't last (-1, Troll)

grumling (94709) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472688)

But you're forgetting that many/most of the occupiers have never had a job to begin with. The movement started when a bunch of college grads couldn't find work but had to start paying back student loans. They have no idea what it means to have a Blackberry strapped to your belt all the time. In fact, I'd bet 90% of them wouldn't realize that they shouldn't treat the company email system like Facebook and other social media systems, and check out when they are done for the day.

Re:It won't last (0)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472820)

The few that they actually won were ones where it was proven the farmers knew their seeds were contaminated and kept growing them anyway.

What group is that? I know the Occupy movement claims to represent the 99%, but I do not personally know anybody who considers the Occupy movement to represent them (but then everybody I know actually works for a living).

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

causality (777677) | more than 2 years ago | (#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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472454)

Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

Re:It won't last (1)

Dishevel (1105119) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472672)

I kind of like the way that Ross Perot treated his employees.
He expected the world from them, and he received it.
He also protected his employees with all his might.
He would call you at 3AM on a sunday christmas eve. He would also fly in with Mercs and break you out of prison when you were taken hostage.
The US would benefit from more employees like his and more employers like him.

Re:It won't last (1)

helix2301 (1105613) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472876)

This is kind of stupid I mean if there is something that can be taken care of quickly with just a short e-mail rather then waiting till business hours and now you have a major issue. I think comes down to work mentality and dedication.

Turn off sync (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472082)

or ignore it.

Re:Turn off sync (4, Insightful)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472130)

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.

Re:Turn off sync (5, Funny)

0123456 (636235) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Turn off sync (1)

linuxwolf69 (1996104) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472394)

Fortunately, the company does not provide me with a cell phone, so I just refuse to pull down email to it. I can also "accidentally" leave my phone at home, and didn't get your call until 8AM Monday morning. Furthermore, I don't get my email on my personal laptop or computer, but I DO get my personal email on my work computer.

Re:Turn off sync (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472402)

If you ignore your phone calls then people start leaving voicemail messages, which you can ignore and delete without listening to after you've replied to their e-mail during working hours.

Re:Turn off sync (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472758)

I don't answer the phone, I'm not a call centre worker I actually have things to do. People need to learn that the world doesn't revolve around them and their needs.

8 to 5 (5, Insightful)

varmittang (849469) | more than 2 years ago | (#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 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472278)

That was my thought. If it's not explicitly part of your job to check for and respond to emails outside of work, then any disruption it causes is your fault not the companies. Turning it off altogether harms those that do need/want it.

I admit that I'm obsessive about checking my email after hours, but I'm not crying to the company about it since it's my choice to carry a corp BB.

Re:8 to 5 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472414)

I tried to tell my 'superiors' that line, only for them to say the following to me:
  -you should be willing to work any and all hours to make sure that everything gets done. oh, and we're moving you from hourly to salaried so you can work as long as we need you to, without worrying that you might slip into overtime
  -you should be willing to work on documentation while you're at home on your days/hours of
  -if you aren't willing to do those things, you want an 8-5 job, and not a 'career', since it's obvious you're not a "team player"

Re:8 to 5 (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472490)

I wouldn't want a 'career' at that place. If they want you to work 40+ hours a week then they need to compensate for it. Otherwise there are many more places out there that won't expect you to work 24/7.

Re:8 to 5 (1)

causality (777677) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472636)

I wouldn't want a 'career' at that place. If they want you to work 40+ hours a week then they need to compensate for it. Otherwise there are many more places out there that won't expect you to work 24/7.

Yes. Isn't it amusing the way things are framed?

If you're goofing off on company time, or claim more hours than you actually worked, then you're stealing. If you think the company should pay you for all the time you spend creating value for them, and should not ever make you work for free off the clock, then you're "not a team player".

It's standard "do as I say, not as I do" hypocrisy.

Re:8 to 5 (1)

CimmerianX (2478270) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472676)

>> Otherwise there are many more places out there that won't expect you to work 24/7.

Where are these magical places that have jobs for the taking. There are many who would love to take those jobs.

Re:8 to 5 (4, Interesting)

tixxit (1107127) | more than 2 years ago | (#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!

Re:8 to 5 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472464)

Actually, it sounds more like she had an axe to grind because she was annoyed that e-mails were interrupting her solitaire games.

Re:8 to 5 (1)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472784)

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 the day, it's better customer service as you can research your answer and not promise something you can't deliver like what often happens on the phone when someone is just trying to get off the phone.

Of course my problems are often centered around over reliance on email. When an email doesn't get delivered for any number of a million reasons they come complaining to me that they absolutely need the message, 99/100 times I can just pull it out of quarantine on a reception issue or it's the sender doing something wrong such as using the wrong email address, mistyping the domain name, or their mail server is temporarily down. In those cases I sure wish a voice call could accomplish the same thing, that's why HIPAA style secure message brokers are becoming more popular. Then you can arrange conference calls, pass files, basically do everything you normally do with email except without any spam.

Banning internal e-mail (3, Interesting)

Xest (935314) | more than 2 years ago | (#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?

Re:Banning internal e-mail (5, Insightful)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472132)

Most corporate IM systems log everything.

Re:Banning internal e-mail (1)

HerculesMO (693085) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472348)

Gotta use HTTPS :)

Re:Banning internal e-mail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472442)

The places I've worked where we had to monitor IM, we either did it by routing all IM clients through a central server we controlled or via keylogging software. So feel free to use HTTPS, it wouldn't do shit.

Re:Banning internal e-mail (1)

Xest (935314) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472452)

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 perhaps I was just being unnecessarily cynical!

Re:Banning internal e-mail (2)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472188)

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.

Re:Banning internal e-mail (4, Interesting)

Chelloveck (14643) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472322)

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."

Re:Banning internal e-mail (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472258)

Our company records all IM conversations for audit purposes. (I work for a company that trades commodities)

Stop checking it, then? (5, Insightful)

Pope (17780) | more than 2 years ago | (#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:Stop checking it, then? (5, Insightful)

Scutter (18425) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472142)

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:Stop checking it, then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472198)

I wonder if people who are afraid to say no to their employers live longer, or if they die younger. I wonder if they lose more than just those evenings and weekends, free of worrying about work. I wonder if they just stay in the harness until they have a stroke, or a heart-attack, and die at 48? I wonder if growing a spine is good for you.

W

Re:Stop checking it, then? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472230)

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

captcha: hungry

Re:Stop checking it, then? (1)

Pope (17780) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472622)

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 better for what we used the damn things for. It also ensured that I had a laughably underpowered machine at the office every damn day :P

Re:Stop checking it, then? (1)

pro151 (2021702) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472204)

If I had any mod points left you would get them all for using common sense. I am on call 24/7 but even at that, there are limits. My profiles are set to phone only at night so that my shift Engineers can reach me if necessary but they know to call my cell number and not my forwarded desk phone. I will read e-mails but only respond to critical needs.

Re:Stop checking it, then? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472342)

But he's not using common sense. He's offering incredibly generic, and often harmful, advice. If your company has a culture that expects people to work outside of the 9-5 then outright ignoring any email out of hours is likely to limit your growth within the business. There's often room for compromise and to help change that culture but going out on a limb like this isn't common sense; it's career suicide.

Re:Stop checking it, then? (1)

twotacocombo (1529393) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472396)

I just set my Android phone to stop pulling mail after hours. I can check it manually, if I get the itch. For what they're paying me, I don't scratch often.

Also, it amazes me that people would even entertain the idea of checking/answering emails at all times of the day and night. What do they get out of it? Some false sense of importance? Unless it's your job to be on call 24/7, or your own the business, why on earth would you let work cut into your living time?

This is idiotic. (5, Interesting)

NeutronCowboy (896098) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:This is idiotic. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472220)

The beauty of email is that it is asynchronous.

This is indeed the important thing!

Wouldn't it be better if their servers would accept incoming mail, but wait with delivering it to the mailboxes until working hours? That cannot be so difficult to set up.

Re:This is idiotic. (1)

Sez Zero (586611) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472564)

This is indeed the important thing!

Wouldn't it be better if their servers would accept incoming mail, but wait with delivering it to the mailboxes until working hours? That cannot be so difficult to set up.

Most well-behaved email servers will retry sending for a number of days, so I don't think this will cause much disruption at all.

It might even cut down on spam/bot-email senders that don't retry.

Re:This is idiotic. (2)

Scutter (18425) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472766)

The beauty of email is that it is asynchronous.

This is indeed the important thing!

Wouldn't it be better if their servers would accept incoming mail, but wait with delivering it to the mailboxes until working hours? That cannot be so difficult to set up.

I'm going to go ahead and assume that the article writer was not trying to be highly detailed in the technical aspects and chose to use the term "shut off" to mean "make it generally unavailable", not "physically turn the e-mail servers off". If I were their mail admin, I would just create queues that only delivered during business hours. That way, people could still send mail if they felt they needed to, but they would only receive their queue backlog mail during work. That technique is laughably easy to do and makes way more sense than "shutting off" mail.

Re:This is idiotic. (3, Insightful)

grumling (94709) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472290)

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:This is idiotic. (2, Insightful)

cshark (673578) | more than 2 years ago | (#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:This is idiotic. (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472818)

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.

Re:This is idiotic. (4, Funny)

Minwee (522556) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472512)

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.

Re:This is idiotic. (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472532)

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.

Re:This is idiotic. (1)

Pope (17780) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472540)

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.

Re:This is idiotic. (1)

phoenix_rizzen (256998) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472838)

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, if they leave their SMTP server off-line for a week, then you would have issues sending mail to them. But turning it off overnight will not.

Re:This is idiotic. (1)

SmurfButcher Bob (313810) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472866)

> The beauty of email is that it is asynchronous

That's the problem - the senders often have a false expectation of email being real-time, and recipients feel that they are held-hostage to email being "high priority".

Your culture correctly asserts that an email demanding "immediate action" will be handled when you get to it, by virtue of the demand being sent via email. Other cultures stupidly assert that email has the exact same priority as a phone call - when a message comes in, everything stops until that message is inspected and prioritized, "just in case it requires immediate action". The end result is that ALL email "requires immediate action" until proven otherwise, under that scheme.

We used to get "crisis" text messages on our phones, for server-downs, building-on-fire, whatever. They were the only texts we'd get, so if you got that little "ding" sound on your phone... everything stopped. Now, there is so much crapflood via text that the scheme does not work - I've now made an outbound dialer that will call our cells instead. Your "if it's urgent, people will call" is not just for people.

Smart phones... (2)

sandytaru (1158959) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472158)

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.

Re:Smart phones... (2)

rhsanborn (773855) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472560)

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.

Instead... (2)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472170)

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.

Parental control (1)

fleeped (1945926) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472210)

Parent disables access to content/services because the children can't control/defend themselves.
If employees WANT to send emails, they should be able to do it and not complain about it
If employees are FORCED by bosses/managers to work/check emails when they don't WANT to, then that should be reported
We all know how awesome parental controls are if you just disable and don't pay any more attention - the problem will perpetuate by mutation.

Volkwasgen (5, Funny)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472234)

Apparently they turned off spell checking as well.

No surprise, it's Germany (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#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...

Re:No surprise, it's Germany (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472376)

In Europe we take care of life quality more than in the US. [...] No room for tea-partiers in Germany, sorry...

Volkswagen [wikipedia.org] was originally founded in 1937 by the Nazi trade union, the German Labour Front (Deutsche Arbeitsfront) [wikipedia.org] .

Happy to Godwin this for you.

Volkwasgen? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472262)

Seems whomever submitted this had a bad typo: Volkwasgen

Sounds like a bad idea... (4, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472268)

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! (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Wait A Minute! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472484)

Wish I could upvote this! The summary of the article is not nearly as accurate as it could be. This makes it sound like they are completely shutting down their mail servers-which it isn't.

And as others have said-you already have the option to ignore it if you aren't on call. If you're checking email and it's not an emergency you're bringing it upon yourself.

ignore it (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472326)

I simply ignore my work email when I am off. I don't bother checking it. I'd gladly clock in and check my email if they allowed over time, but hell will freeze over before I work for free. If a job doesn't want you on facebook, personal phone calls, doing anything else in your personal life while on clock why the hell should they expect me to do anything work related during my personal time? Road goes both ways...you can't tell me no personal life at work then invade my personal life away from work....

Work/Life balance is all well and good, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472352)

Don't these companies communicate with anyone overseas? Here in the USA I coordinate with people in the UK, and email is what lets me do that during my work hours instead of having to come in extra early or them extra late.

The company that outright banned e-mail is just chaining their employees to IM and its demand for a real-time response. They're making it *worse*
 

union works now this why in the USA It needs them (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472354)

union works now this why in the USA It needs them so are not chained to work off hours and not only that they want to work late and then you get reamed for showing up late that next day.

Easy fix (1)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472390)

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?

Re:Easy fix (1)

russotto (537200) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472754)

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.

I find it odd (1)

koan (80826) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472408)

I find it odd that email is to blame, email is not the issue the issue is behavior of people, because even if you rid yourself of email then whatever you have switched too will then suddenly become the problem.
In the case of Atos the face to face option is a good idea, as most people will decide what would have been easy to send in email isn't worth the bother of face time or at the very least will suddenly seem less crucial, however their switch to "chat-type collaborative services" is unlikely to be any better than email unless they have a "chat time moderator" to keep everyone in line and on track.

Better idea... (1)

Hamsterdan (815291) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472432)

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 (4, Interesting)

Charliemopps (1157495) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Other motives (1)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472698)

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.

Re:Other motives (2)

sco_robinso (749990) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472810)

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 -- paper memos? Even then they'd need to be kept around and archived in some fashion. If you're trying to skirt written communication, then you would need to scrap it all together. But then what happens? Productivity drops through the floor because you're basically working for a company with no computer systems, no paper, nothing.

I'm all for advocating limited use of email after hours (many companies are adopting these kinds of policies), but e-mail is here to stay, and all of this talk about companies throwing out major aspects of technology wholesale is just a bunch of FUD. 1 company does it and makes the media, so now "it's an industry trend"? Bullshit FUD, it sounds like.

Guns don't kill people... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472504)

Guns don't kill people; people kill people! Or in the case of email, managers kill people. Don't blame a useful tool for the indiscretions of managers and/or the lack of self control & discipline demonstrated by their employees. Rather than eliminating email, why not study the work that occurs after hours and go after the true culprit to the proclaimed disruptions to private lives.

Re:Guns don't kill people... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472666)

because it would force them to think ... and in most place it's not a good thing.

Leave the phone at work (1)

ubergeek65536 (862868) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472548)

How about just don't carry your work phone when you're not at work.

German labor law (2)

flyboy974 (624054) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Is it really that bad? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472600)

Am I the only one here who doesn't really mind?

First, unless there is tremendous pressure to read and respond quickly, or unless there is a massive amount of after-hours email, I don't see the problem. Sometimes the second shift manager needs to make an immediate decision. If so, he might as well TRY to get my input. Sometimes I see it in time, sometimes I don't. But the email itself doesn't hurt anyone.

Second, I actually enjoy it when I find out someone on another shift has solved a big problem for me. Or that my rush delivery arrived an hour after I left. Or that our Asian sales team met their forecast at 1 AM EST. A small weight is lifted from my shoulders and I sleep a little bit better that night.

Third, when bad news does come via email, I much prefer to receive ASAP, rather than in a big batch first thing each morning. Personally, I tend to react more calmly and more logically if I have time to think. No one expects me to solve a problem at 9 PM, so all I need to do is file it away mentally. By morning, I've had the time I need to calm down and approach the situation rationally. If five minutes of my time at 9 PM can save an hour of frustration at 9 AM, I'm happy to do it.

As an employee in a 24/7 business (1)

grumling (94709) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472618)

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 is so much of a hassle and the reward isn't really worth it. I figure that if I have to take care of a true outage/etc, it counts as a call out. If I'm just checking the alarms, that's just a normal part of being on-call. If I get interrupted at lunch or my boss calls me on his way home, well, that just means I can leave a little early on Fridays and no one is going to say anything.

Next year, due to equipment upgrades and installation of redundant systems, I'll be able to go into an on-call rotation with my coworkers who are also now always on call. As far as I'm concerned, when I'm not on call, the BB gets set to "silent" and sits on the charger until tomorrow. My coworkers have my home number if they have a SHTF problem, but otherwise the NOC won't call and tickets won't go to me outside of normal business hours. Of course, if my coworkers do call, that becomes straight overtime or possibly call-out, depending on severity and my involvement in the issue. But if I'm out of cell range and miss the call I won't lose any sleep over it either.

But I'm paid hourly, not salary. If more employees were paid hourly I'm sure we'd be much better off. It makes it obvious who's doing the work and who's just getting by, because hours worked becomes a measurable metric. In a salary situation you're depending on the few employees who give a shit to stay late and make sure the work gets done, while there's others who either waste a ton of time or leave at 5:00 no matter what.

Cannot manage time or themselves! (1)

mschaffer (97223) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472740)

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!

There's a simpler solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38472768)

There's a simpler solution that one of the guys at work does:
    He simply does not read his work e-mail outside of work. EVER. It makes it really simple to keep work and non-work separate. And since he's the office manager, he gets his way.

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