Furloughs Force Workers to Finally Abandon Email

April 17, 2009 | By | Comments (0)

Main_mail20081210 More and more these days we’re hearing about companies forcing employees to take furloughs as a means of cutting costs and preserving jobs. Taking a week of unpaid leave has almost become commonplace among media companies: newspapers, magazines and television stations have all implemented furloughs in recent months. But in this day and age, when technology has made it so easy for us to be connected 24/7, how many of us actually know how to take a full week off from work? We schlep our laptops on vacation! We check our BlackBerrys and iPhones the minute we arrive home from the office. And most nights and weekends are no longer protected work-free zones.

Can furloughs actually be good for us and change the way we think about our time off?

According to a recent article published in the Legal Times, absolutely no work is permitted during a furlough. The authors write, “A problem may arise where exempt employees perform seemingly
insignificant ‘work’ while on furlough. The
performance of such minimal work, if ‘suffered’ by the employer,
creates an obligation to pay the exempt employee’s full salary.”

Yikes. You wouldn’t want your company to suffer and actually have to pay you now, would you?

And yet it’s not always easy to take a true break from the office. Even a forced unpaid one. Take Jen Y. in Tampa for example. She says furloughs have meant more work on everypone’s desk and it’s becoming more stressful upon returning to the office. “I work for a company that has instituted the dreaded furloughs, 13 days and counting this year already,” Jen wrote to me in a recent email. “No matter how I say I WANT to avoid checking work email when on furlough, I still find myself picking up the dreaded Crackberry and scrolling through. I don’t usually respond (much) to emails, but I read them just to get ready for what’s going to face me when I come back.”

One way to ensure you do absolutely no work during a furlough is to completely stop using your BlackBerry or iPhone for the week. If you still need the phone, try temporarily disconnecting Web access from your device. Emails won’t come in again until you reconnect service.

Are you facing a furlough? What plans do you have for the time off and how will you ensure you won’t read even a single email message?

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