The “always on, always available” functionality of the BlackBerry system has long been a double-edged sword in the workplace. On the one hand, it can make for a very successful and productive workforce. On the other, it can make it very difficult for employees to get away, to “unplug” from work. That flashing red light often interrupts much-needed downtime, making it impossible for employees to recharge their batteries and return to work fresh and ready to go.
Following a trend among European companies to improve work-life balance, Volkswagen will limit BlackBerry Push email to some 1100+ workers in Germany. While management will continue to receive emails as usual, the company has agreed to union demands, limiting emails for certain unionized employees to a period starting 30 minutes before their shift and ending 30 minutes after.
In addition to workforce wellness and productivity concerns, the legality of after-hours work performed via BlackBerry has also, at times, become a point of contention between companies and workers as well. After all, work is work, no matter when or where it is performed.
As someone who does not rate a company BlackBerry (mine is personally-owned), I have never experienced “BlackBerry Burnout”, but I have spoken to many co-workers and friends about it. Some describe it as a lifeline, while others consider it a ball-and-chain. Businesses must continue to walk the fine line between their own productivity and the personal lives of their workforce. I think that, as with most things, moderation is the key, and, with this action, the makers of the “People’s Car” have taken a firm step towards becoming more of a “People’s” company.