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    Jun 02, 2014

    Imagine evenings without e-mail

    AT APPROXIMATELY 6.15pm in Germany, 5,000 employees at auto giant Volkswagen are barred from accessing their work e-mail.

    The company's servers stop forwarding e-mail to employees' work phones until 7am the next day, forcing the workers to unplug and have proper rest.

    The organisation is merely one of an increasing number of European firms that are adopting a "no-work outside office hours" policy.

    In Singapore, however, many workers are expected to be on call 24 hours a day.

    For some, like Mr Kay, an account manager at a public relations firm, receiving e-mail and calls after work hours is an established industry norm.

    "I have to check my phone constantly, even when out with friends. There's a feeling that I'm never quite away from work, as a part of my mind is constantly worrying about clients," he added.

    Certain companies provide their employees with smartphones to ensure that they have the necessary means to work outside the office.

    Though some may see it as being chained to work, others like Mr Teoh, an IT manager, like the constant connectivity.

    "I find it pretty helpful as I can scan through my e-mail on the way to work and am aware of what is to come before I reach the office," he said.

    He seems to be an exception. Ms Kaur, who works in the legal line, is regularly plagued by non-urgent e-mail from her bosses in the late hours of the night.

    "My bosses can be rather inconsiderate and expect a prompt response, despite the fact that it's after office hours or I am on leave. I feel obligated to reply and face peer pressure from my colleagues, who face the same situation," said the 38-year-old.

    "I sacrifice time with my family to make my bosses happy," she added.

    But a Volkswagen-type policy may not work here, experts said.

    "As an international business and financial hub, many employees across different time zones do not work the standard 9am-6pm hours," said Randstad country director Michael Smith.

    Culture plays a part, too.

    "Asians tend to place more emphasis on hard work, while Europeans tend to place more emphasis on work-life balance," said Erman Tan, president of the Singapore Human Resources Institute.

    However, Stella Tang, managing director of Robert Half Singapore, said: "(Companies with) excessive overtime and weekend work may end up with a high turnover of staff, which can reduce productivity."

    Said Mr Smith: "To avoid employee burnout, organisations in Singapore should develop their own guidelines so that their employees don't always feel the need to be available and on call."

    Some companies offer employees flexible work arrangements. At video collaboration solutions provider Polycom, employees "have the ability to plan their workday around their other commitments", said Eric Wong, the company's head of talent acquisition and development (Asia-Pacific-Japan and China).