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Email is a major source of modern stress. Learn strategies for dealing with your inbox in a healthier way.
Email overload is a common 21st century problem, but did you know that it could be impacting your health? All of our connectivity is leading to increased stress from never being able to fully escape our to-do list at home while we're at work or our problems at the office while we're at home.
To find out how email is impacting us, British researchers at the Future Work Centre undertook a study of 2,000 people working in various jobs and measured the “perceived email pressure” they felt.
The number of emails subjects were dealing with varied—emails can stress us out whether there are 5 or 500—but the way they handled them helped determine how the stress affected them. While other research has pointed out the rise in physical ailments such as “text neck” and “mouse finger,” this research looked at the effects on work-life balance and how stressing about email can lead to feeling that work is negatively affecting one’s home life—or vice versa.
There were a few email behaviours that were particularly associated with increased stress. Here are five factors that could change the way you relate to your inbox.
Almost half of the people in the study received “push” notifications for their emails on their devices, meaning they were alerted of emails without having to request them from a server; these people were more likely to report higher perceived email pressure.
In the study, 62 percent of participants left their email on all day. This was also linked to higher perceived email pressure.
Early- and late-day emails
Checking email earlier in the morning or later at night was associated with higher levels of perceived email pressure.
The study found that managers experience significantly more email pressure when compared to non-managers. And the industries that were most affected included IT, marketing, public relations, media and Internet.
The researchers found that feeling confident and in control can mitigate email pressure, so those who felt a sense of control over their environment also felt that work interfered less with their home life.
So, how can you de-stress in a world where we can't totally disconnect? The researchers had a few suggestions.
1. Reconsider checking email outside of working hours.
Are you doing it to keep on top of things so you can relax away from the office? Or are you checking it outside of work due to pressure or even fear? If it’s the latter, consider how you might wean yourself off.
2. Don't read (or send) emails in the early morning or late at night.
You could be adding to your colleagues’ stress, not to mention your own.
3. Switch off push notifications.
This can allow you to focus on other tasks, while your email application runs in the background. Then, you can choose when you want to tackle your inbox.
Learn other ways to stop stress at work and how to escape the busy trap.