Out of the office and not taking emails: victory for VW workers

German management agrees to stop sending messages to employees out of office hours

Berlin

The tyranny of the out-of-hours email from the boss has plagued workers the world over ever since the introduction of the BlackBerry.

But now, after years of subjugation, one group of workers has struck a blow for freedom: a thousand employees of the German car giant Volkswagen.

In a move designed to restore the sacred Teutonic concept of "Feierabend" – strictly no work out of factory hours – the vehicle maker's works council, backed by its most powerful trade union, this year struck an agreement with the company that from now on email will be disabled for the selected BlackBerry-equipped staff when they are not in the office.

These employees now only receive e-mails from half a hour before the start of working hours and half an hour after they end. They can still receive and make phone calls.

Hans-Joachim Thust, a workers' spokesman, suggested that mobile phones and BlackBerry handsets could disrupt family life and lead to employee burn-out. "The new possibilities of communication also contain inherent dangers," he insisted.

Volkswagen staff were said to have become fed up with being treated as if they were permanently available to their bosses. There were reports of employees having romantic evenings or a relaxing bath disrupted by infuriating management messages.

Mr Thust said that as a result of the new agreement, management had been obliged to draw in its horns and could no longer expect staff to respond to emails at night. Psychological studies carried out on workers have suggested that employee burn out causes almost 10 million sick days a year in Germany. The VW email blackout has been enforced at six of the global concern's German vehicle plants, but it does not apply to all staff. Only 1,154 pay scale workers furnished with a company smartphone currently benefit from the agreement.

However the ruling does not apply to senior management or to staff who fall outside works council negotiated pay brackets. Mr Thust told the Wolfsburger Allgemeine Zeitung yesterday that the practice of limiting management emails to office hours had prompted "very positive feedback" from staff.

Volkswagen can afford to indulge its BlackBerry wielding employees. The company achieved a 26 per cent increase in turnover during the first nine months of this year and is currently trying to overtake Toyota and General Motors as the world's top-selling car-maker. By 2018 VW aims to up its global output from eight to ten million vehicles per year.

Addressing the Volkswagen workforce at a recent rally at the company's German parent factory in Wolfsburg, chief executive Martin Winterkorn congratulated his staff on their Herculean efforts in 2011, which resulted in the completion of 38 extra shifts and the production of 50,000 additional vehicles.

In Touch: Global Communications

70mm

The estimated number of BlackBerry users worldwide

65

The time, in minutes, that the average American spends on a phone each day – twice as much as three years ago.

59%

Proportion of workers who check business emails out of office hours, according to a US study in 2010

294bn

Estimated number of emails sent every day — 10 per cent of which are unsolicited messages, or spam

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine