For a lot of Canadians, today is the first day back at work after the holidays. But how many of us actually managed to get away from work, even as we enjoyed time away from the office?
Mobile technology has done many wonderful things for our society, from giving us access to a world of information to letting us stay in touch with family and friends no matter where they are. But is has also made it possible for us to bring our work home with us, keeping us connected to the demands of the office wherever we go.
While some employers are no doubt happy about this increase in productivity, others worry about burning out their best and brightest. German carmaker Volkswagen apparently belongs to the latter camp: The company has agreed to black out BlackBerry emails for staff members during non-work hours, making it impossible to check messages from the office from 30 minutes after the end of the work day until 30 minutes before the start of the next one.
The policy will only apply to staff covered by collective bargaining (executives will have no such limits), and is the result of negotiations between the company and its labour representatives.
According to The New York Times, employee burnout is responsible for 10 million sick days in Germany each year, and 88% of German workers can be reached by clients, colleagues or employers outside of regular work hours.
For some, Volkswagen's announcement is a welcome development, especially those who worry about becoming like the workaholic Japanese salaryman in the video below:
Others, though, worry that an unwillingness to work hard lies behind an imminent decline of Western civilization. Niall Ferguson, the Harvard scholar who was in the red chair last month, talked to George about his book Civilization: The West and The Rest, in which he listed the reasons he believes European civilization and its successors came to dominate the world. Ferguson cites "work ethic" as one of the top reasons, and believes that Europe and North America, with their focus on work-life balance and holiday times, could become less competitive with workers in emerging economies.
Should we be working harder? Or preserving our mental health and avoiding burnout?
This video report from RT-TV suggests that Ferguson's view is unfortunately accurate:
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