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Lidl blocks employee emails outside of work hours

16:51 31/08/2018

Supermarket chain Lidl has announced that it will block staff emails between the hours of 18.00 and 7.00 to allow its employees to unplug outside of work hours. The move has triggered the latest in a round of discussions about workers being available evenings, weekends and even during holidays.

Employees at Lidl can send emails during those hours if they choose, but the system will block reception of emails. That includes the weekend: Emails will stop on Friday at 18.00 and resume on Monday at 7.00.

The new policy will be in force for all Lidl employees in Belgium and Luxembourg. “We are sending the message that we do not expect people to work outside of office hours,” said spokesperson Isabelle Colbrandt.

Companies in Europe have been experimenting with such methods to ensure that their employees feel they aren’t working 24 hours a day. Some methods word better than others.

Better options, says psychologist

Lidl’s method “is better than a total block” on emails, VUB professor of labour psychology Sara De Gieter told De Standaard. “In other countries they have implemented a total block where employees could also not send email or that deleted emails that were sent, but that was not successful. Workers ended up turning to their private email addresses because they no longer felt like they had any autonomy.”

Colruyt, meanwhile, told the paper that they have never set up a system whereby workers have access to work emails outside of the office. They do have a badging system where workers must badge in and out. This means they cannot work at home; Colruyt’s philosophy is that work is done at work and no work is done at home – during work hours or otherwise.

“Rather than regulating work emails,” said De Gieter, “employers need to create a culture wherein it’s possible to let go of your work. What if Lidl employees are then buried in emails on Monday morning? They would do better to discuss what is and is not expected and work with employees to create a healthier workspace.”

Written by Lisa Bradshaw