Break from email brings less stress at work

Break from email brings less stress at work

By Liz Lockhart

Having a break from work emails was found to bring reduced stress and better concentration for workers, according to a new study.  The study was conducted by the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and the United States Army.

In this study, office workers who worked on computers were attached to heart rate monitors.  Computer software also detected how often they switched windows.  It was found that workers who read emails changed their screens twice as often and that they were in a constant state of ‘high alert’ with more constant heart rates.  Workers who were removed from email for a period of five days had more natural, variable heart rates.

Gloria Mark of UCI said ‘We found that when you remove email from workers’ lives, they multitask less and experience less stress.’

Workers who did not have to check emails reported feeling more able to do their jobs and keep on track with the tasks required of them.  This was due to having fewer stressful and time-wasting interruptions from emails.

Mark confirmed that measurements backed this up.  Workers who were responsible for checking their emails switched windows 37 times an hour, on average.  Those with no email checking responsibilities changed screens half as many times, around 18 times per hour.

Mark suggests that the findings could be useful for boosting productivity.  She also feels that it may be helpful to control email login times and to batch messages along with other strategies. ‘Email vacations on the job may be a good idea.  We need to experiment with that,’ she said.

Many office workers email one another whereas physically getting up and walking to someone’s desk offers physical relief and personal interaction.  Mark added that the ‘participants loved being without email, especially if their manager said it was Ok.  In general, they were much happier to interact in person.’

Other research has established that people with steady ‘high alert’ heart rates produce more of the stress hormone cortisol.  A variety of health problems have been linked stress in the workplace.

There was just one downside for the workers who did not have to check their emails, they reported that they felt a bit isolated.  For many workers it is not possible to ignore email as it is an important part of modern day working life.  When, and if, it is possible to take a break from the constant checking of emails, it looks as though this could be beneficial to relieving some of the stresses of 21st century office life.

No votes yet