Digital detox


Ping! What happens to us when we are constantly accessible? New research shows how debilitating this is for productivity. A number of large companies, including Volkswagen, have consequently decided to shut down their e-mail servers after office hours.

Of course, everyone knows that too much overtime and never being free is detrimental. And yet it can be hard to say no.

  "However, the consequences for both individuals and companies should make us stop and think," says Erin Reid at Boston University School of Business.

  "Our research shows unequivocally that almost all of us become more or less dysfunctional if we are never able to put aside our mobiles, but are instead constantly waiting for the next e-mail or phone call."

The most dystopian reports are warning that we are en route to a work culture where we are expected to put our jobs ahead of family, personal development and leisure interests, ahead of life itself.

  "In some cases, the consequences are absolutely bizarre. In one of the companies that we studied, it turned out that a quarter of all employees pretended that they were working an 80 hour week when in actual fact they were only working half that. But the culture was such that they felt compelled," Reid continues.

Volkswagen is not alone in reacting. In France they have introduced a law which says that employers are not allowed to e-mail their employees outside working hours.