French exec blames email for staff stress

Thu Sep 24, 2009 8:20pm EDT
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By Sinead Carew

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A top executive at France's biggest telecommunications company, which is dealing with a spate of suicides, warned that the barrage of emails from smartphones and personal computers was stressing out employees.

While France Telecom Chief Financial Officer Gervais Pellissier did not directly blame suicides on around-the-clock email, he said workers in all big companies are under more pressure in the age of the BlackBerry.

"Today for people working in business, whatever the level, whether they are CEO or even first- or second-rank level employees, they are always connected," he told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.

France Telecom, which operates under the Orange brand, has come under public scrutiny after 22 workers committed suicide and another 13 attempted to kill themselves since the start of 2008.

Pellissier said some employees were clearly feeling a lot of pressure due to the privatization of France Telecom, but he added that this was compounded by new technologies that cause work to encroach increasingly on personal lives.

"When you were an average employee in a big corporation 15 years ago, you had no mobile phone or no PC at home. When you were back home, work was out," he said.

Research in Motion's popular BlackBerry has been dubbed CrackBerry in the United States, where some users say they are addicted to checking emails.

Pellissier said such practices may be taking a bigger toll on workers than has been acknowledged by his company or others.   Continued...

<p>The new Research in Motion (RIM) BlackBerry Tour 9630 is shown at the annual general meeting of shareholders in Waterloo, Ontario, July 14, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/ Mike Cassese</p>