Maybe we always suspected that habitual email use was bad for our health, but now here comes proof from the researchers at the University of California, Irvine: Their recently released study, “A Pace Not Dictated by Electrons: An Empirical Study of Work Without Email,” suggests that time off from those inboxes can lead to reduced stress and higher productivity.
The study — which was funded by the U.S. Army and the National Science Foundation — followed 13 office workers as they suspended their email activity for five days. The participants wore heart rate monitors, which actually showed lower stress levels during this time (presumably due to the lack of pressure to check email constantly).
Researchers also noted that workers didn’t flip between computer windows as often during this down time. With regular email activity, participants bopped between windows often, switching an average of 37 times per hour. But when there was no email usage, window-switching was cut by more than half, to 18 times per hour, suggesting a greater ability to focus on single tasks.
The takeaway here? Well, companies may want to start making it a policy to send batch company emails at once or twice daily intervals, instead of all day long. That would certainly help workers from feeling like they need to be chained to their inboxes. As for individuals, taking some time off from email periodically might be just the thing. But don’t take too much time off: The report also noted that too much time away from email made people feel isolated. So what did the participants do in these cases? They hit up email-using coworkers for info about major work events.
Do you use email a lot for work? Tell us if you think that time off from it would alleviate your stress levels (and/or boost your focus), or if it would make you less productive and antsy.