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New app blocks your work email when you go home

Enforced Vacation has humanity at its core. Its makers claim their app will "give people back their personal time."

2 min read

Enforced Vacation wants you to be a little more human, which seems like a noble intent. Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Dear overbearing boss who loves to send "urgent" e-mails at 9 p.m., just to be overbearing.

Dear overenthusiastic middle manager, who thinks that enthusiastically e-mailing at midnight is a wonderful way to get promoted.

Dear supposed co-worker, who leans on others night and day by sending them evening e-mails detailing everything that "needs" to be done.

Enforced Vacation is for you. Or, rather, against you.

This is an app that insists it will efficiently block every single work e-mail, so that you can do fancy things like live, breathe and watch "The Good Wife" in peace.

Enforced Vacation works like this: You select your time frame. You block everything.

The app does allow you to make exceptions for specific individuals or subjects. You can share a secret keyword with others and they know to include it only in anything that is truly urgent.

However, David Thielen of Windward Studios, the man behind the app, told me: "What we are is not a very strict filtering system. What we are is no business e-mail when you're 'off.' None."

Writing on the Enforced Vacation website, he explained that the idea for the app came to him because of his own staff.

"Quite simply Ryan & Logan (two of our sales engineers). Getting them to leave email alone at night is impossible. Getting them to ignore it on the weekend, also an exercise in frustration," Thielen wrote. "As Ryan was heading in to the operating room for gall bladder surgery, he was on his cell phone answering a support ticket. This wasn't how we wanted our employees to work, even if they did."

Thielen believes that people need to be treated as people, not tools in a corporate shed. He wants to "give people back their personal time."

He told me: "The goal is that people truly have work e-mail off during their personal time. And maybe once a month there's a single email that needs to go through."

For many, this would be a peculiar nirvana. The price of $1 per user per month seems small compared with the potential sanity that might be achieved. And, perhaps, the potential productivity. No one's ever proved that being on e-mail at all hours creates a better employee.

Some countries have begun to protect workers from modern e-mailing practices. In Brazil, for example, they passed a law that said e-mail after hours constituted overtime. This year, the French passed a labor agreement that required workers simply not to reply to e-mails sent after 6pm.

How such regulations might work in practice is, of course, debatable. I wonder what will happen when overbearing bosses discover that their employees are using Enforced Vacation to get away from their overbearing bosses.

However, it's rare that an enterprise product offers headlines such as "Stop Working 24/7. Be Happier."

In a world where everything is being pushed onto everybody, there's something uplifting about an app that tries to pull you away from technology.