Poor E-mail Management Could Add To Stress

January 5, 2016

By Rick Nauert PhD

Constantly checking your email updates could be making you feel more stressed, according to a report from the London-based Future Work Centre.

The group, which conducts psychological research on people’s workplace experiences, called emails a “double-edged sword” that provided a useful means of communication but could also be a source of stress.

Dr. Richard MacKinnon, from the Future Work Centre, will present the study findings at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology.

The Future Work Centre asked nearly 2,000 working people across a variety of industries, sectors, and job roles in the UK about using email. The research explored whether factors such as technology, behavior, demographics, and personality played a role in people’s perception of email pressure.

The research suggests many people have developed some bad habits when it comes to managing email.

Investigators discovered nearly half of those surveyed have emails automatically sent to their inbox (push notifications) and 62 percent left their email on all day. Those who checked email early in the morning and late at night may think they are getting ahead, but they could be making things worse, as the study showed that these habits were linked to higher levels of stress and pressure.

Said MacKinnon, “Our research shows that email is a double-edged sword. Whilst it can be a valuable communication tool, it’s clear that it’s a source of stress of frustration for many of us.

“The people who reported it being most useful to them also reported the highest levels of email pressure! But the habits we develop, the emotional reactions we have to messages, and the unwritten organizational etiquette around email, combine into a toxic source of stress which could be negatively impacting our productivity and wellbeing.”

“Despite organizations attempting to shape policies and procedures to minimize the negative impact of email, its clear one-size-fits-all advice is ineffective. People are different both in terms of how they perceive stress and how and where they work. What works for some is unlikely to work for others.”

To help individuals work through their bad habits, researchers provide a few tips:

  • To the early morning/late night checkers — put your phone away, do you really need to check your email?
  • How about planning your day and prioritizing your work, before the priorities of others flood your inbox?
  • Consider turning off “push notifications” and/or turning off your email app for portions of the day, and take control of when you receive email.
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