Make us your home page
Instagram
Working | Health

Work email addiction can be stressful, study shows

LOS ANGELES — Are you addicted to checking your work email?

Do you check it first thing in the morning and right before you go to bed?

Do you check it on work breaks and even on vacations?

Well, here's a piece of advice: Stop.

According to a new study by researchers at the University of California-Irvine, people who check their work email regularly exhibit higher states of stress, and less focus, than workers who continue to do their jobs while being cut off from email entirely.

The study examined the heart rate of workers at a suburban office outside of Boston. Some of the workers were asked to go about their email-filled days as usual, others were asked to step away from email for a full five-day workweek. The researchers fitted both groups with wearable heart rate monitors capable of taking heart rate measurements second by second.

The workers who abandoned email had a variety of different roles within the organization, including managers, administrators, research scientists and technologists, and all of them usually use email during the course of a regular workweek.

The research team, led by UC-Irvine informatics professor Gloria Mark, found that people who read email throughout the day were in a steady "high alert" heart rate state, while those who did not check email had more natural, variable heart rates.

Those without email also reported feeling more in control of their work after five days without constantly reading and responding to messages. They also found they had more time to complete work tasks.

And when the experiment was over, most of the people who had been banned from email said they realized that most emails aren't important.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Mark said that for most workers, the idea that we need to be checking email is a myth that we tell ourselves.

"Of course for some jobs it is necessary," she said. For example, one of the people her team studied works in customer service and found it hard to do her job without email.

"But for most of the other people, they discovered just how unnecessary email was," she said.

I asked her if workers should orchestrate their own email vacations — picking a certain time during the day or even a full day to abandon email.

"I think it's hard for people to be self-disciplined enough to give up email," she said. "But I could see people taking a day off of email if they could afford it, and their supervisor let their colleagues know that this person won't be responding to emails. It would be good for their health."

In December, the French firm Atos made headlines when the company's leadership announced that it would be a zero-email company by 2013.

But Mark said Atos is an exception.

"We're not heading in that direction," she said. "We are heading towards a 24/7 connectivity, and there would have to be a major disruption for things to change. I hope they do. I think we have gone a little too far without constant connectivity."

Work email addiction can be stressful, study shows 06/02/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 2, 2012 4:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Datz to open in St. Petersburg, join the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art

    Food & Dining

    Now Datz news.

    Get it? Tuesday, Datz, the longtime line-out-the-door, oft-Instagrammed and -Yelped Tampa stalwart known for shock-and-awe sandwiches and oh-so-much bacon, announced it is coming to St. Petersburg.

    Lunch guest eat at Datz Deli at 2616 South MacDill Ave. in Tampa. Times files.
  2. Equifax CEO Richard Smith steps down amid hacking scandal

    Personal Finance

    The chief executive of Equifax, the troubled credit reporting agency that suffered a massive data breach that affected as many as 143 million people, will retire, effective Tuesday, according to a statement by the company.

    Richard Smith, chief executive of Equifax, the troubled credit reporting agency that suffered a massive data breach that affected as many as 143 million people, will reportedly retire effective Tuesday.
[File photo: Joey Ivansco/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP]
  3. Bass Pro acquires Cabela's for $4 billion

    Retail

    Bass Pro Shops has acquired competitor Cabela's for a reported $4 billion. Bass Pro indicated it is seeking to appeal to all "outdoor enthusiasts" with the move, roping in hunting customers from Cabela's.

    Bass Pro Shops acquired Cabela's for $4 billion, Bass Pro announced Tuesday. | [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  4. Tampa International named among least expensive airports

    News

    TAMPA — Florida airports apparently have a knack for getting it done cheaply.

    According to RewardExpert, Tampa International Airport is the fifth least expensive domestic airport. 
[CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times
 file photo]

  5. Tampa-based vXchnge secures $200M loan to expand operations

    Corporate

    TAMPA — Tampa-based vXchnge, which operates data centers in 14 metro areas, has secured a loan for roughly $200 million for "major expansions and enhancements."

    Tampa-based vXchnge, a data center provider, secured a $200 million loan. Pictured is CEO Keith Olsen. | [Courtesy of vXchnge]