Disappearing Desks…And Deleted Emails?

Good for Work-Life Balance – or Detrimental to Business?

Over the past year or so, I’ve read several articles about companies that mechanize their employees’ desks to lift out of reach when the clock strikes 6 o’clock in the evening, that auto-delete employees’ emails when they are on vacation, or that hold emails in a mail store after hours every day.  These are not mom and pop shops either – they are large, established companies with thousands of employees.  So the question is…are they on to something?  Or are they doing their employees (and their business) a disservice?

The Amsterdam design studio, Heldergroen, installed steel cables to lift their employees’ desks off of the floor at the end of the day. Their theory?  “A desk is just a part of life. Not the other way around. Don’t forget to play. To go outside. To breathe. And wonder.”

 

One benefit of this approach is that Heldergroen can use their space for other activities – such as yoga, dinner parties, and events.  But on the other hand, it can severely disrupt an employee’s productivity, increase their stress levels, and reduce the quality of their deliverables and output by putting them under unnecessary time constraints.

Other companies – and even countries – have tried to regulate work-life balance via email controls.  France’s government recently introduced rules for receiving emails outside of work hours – and has signed a deal with unions that allow union workers to turn off work phones outside of work hours, insisting that they cannot be pressured to check emails.

Volkswagen implemented a rule that their servers would stop releasing emails to its employees a half hour before the end of their work day, and would only send them a half hour before the start of the next day’s work.

Daimler launched a new initiative, “Mail on Holiday,” that takes it a step further by auto-deleting all new emails received while on vacation.  Fortunately, it is an optional initiative!

It’s a great thought to make sure employees’ are enjoying their lives and avoiding burnout – but it’s not all that practical in today’s technology-focused world.  As younger generations are being raised connected to their smartphones, tablets, and laptops, work-life integration, rather than work-life balance, is inevitable.  And as the younger generations embrace work-life integration, they have also found ways of obtaining balance, oddly enough, while staying more on top of work than ever before.  Whether it’s a workout at lunch, or leaving the office early to attend a child’s sporting event, today’s employees value flexibility during the day MORE than work-life balance in the traditional sense.

 


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