Germany is leading the way (again).
In 2011, Volkswagen announced that servers would stop sending emails 30 minutes after the end of employees’ shifts, and only start again 30 minutes before the person returned to work. Their move was followed by Germany's Labour Ministry earlier this year.
The new guidelines state that ministry staff should not be penalised for switching off their mobiles or failing to pick up messages out of hours – rightly because “technology should not be allowed to control us and dominate our lives. We should control technology.”
Daimler, a German car and truck maker company, has then introduced a new auto-delete programme for emails to out-of-office workers. When an email is sent, the programme, which is called “mail on holiday”, issues a reply to the sender that the person is out of the office and that the email will be deleted, while also offering the contact information of another employee for pressing matters.
And then there’s France. Earlier this year France has introduced rules to protect people working in the digital and consultancy sectors from work email and calls outside office hours, while companies cannot pressure staff to check messages.
- Increased productivity: Despite the ‘shorter’ working hours in Germany and France, German and French productivity is among some of the highest in Europe, according to figures from the OECD.
- Decreased stress levels: A recent Gallup poll reveals that nearly half of workers who “frequently” email for work outside of normal working hours report experiencing stress “a lot of the day yesterday,” compared with the 36% experiencing stress who never email for work.
Having said that, the out-of-hours email ban does have its own fundamental challenges, when the new reality is that many people now combine holidays and working and are constantly on the move. If this out-of-hours email ban is yet to be introduced in your company, see here some quick tips on how to stop email overload as a tentative solution.
As a professional communicator myself, I do like the convenience of email and confess that I can't live without email for more than a day. But when it comes to trust and relationship building, face to face communication is still of the essence, considering that over 90% of how we communicate is through nonverbal cues like gestures and facial expressions.