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Switching off email updates may reduce stress: study

stress woman

The key to happiness may be switching off email notifications on your smartphone, say researchers who found that people who automatically receive emails on their devices report high levels of ’email pressure’.

Since the creation of emails in the 1970s, its growth has been unprecedented, facilitating quick and easy communication between people across borders and time zones, for both business and personal use.

However, despite its widespread usage and popularity as a communication tool, for some individuals and employers, it can be a source of major frustration, anxiety and lost productivity, the researchers said.

As the volume of email continues to rise, many struggle to prioritise work effectively and are constantly interrupted by the flow of messages and demands, resulting in decreased productivity and stress.

In order to understand more about how email both facilitates and negatively impacts the employee experience, researchers from UK-based Future Work Centre conducted a survey of about 2,000 people across a variety of industries, sectors and job roles in the UK.

Researchers wanted to explore whether factors such as technology, behaviour, demographics, work-life balance and personality play a role in perceptions of email pressure and in coping strategies.

“We found a strong relationship between using ‘push’ email and perceived email pressure. This means that people who automatically receive email on their devices were more likely to report higher levels of email pressure,” researchers said.

People who leave their email on all day were much more likely to say that they experienced email pressure, the researchers found.

Checking email earlier in the morning or later at night is also associated with higher levels of email pressure, they said.

According to the study, managers experience significantly higher levels of email pressure when compared to non-managers.

The research also highlighted some interesting group differences in the role personality plays in the experience of email and how email has the potential to both positively and negatively impact work-life balance.

People who reported higher levels of email pressure also experienced greater interference between work and home.

Researchers found that personality plays a key role in determining how much email pressure one feels and the extent to which it interferes with work-life balance.

“You may want to consider launching your email application when you want to use email and closing it down for periods when you don’t wish to be interrupted by incoming emails. In other words, use email when you intend to, not just because it’s always running in the background,” researchers said.

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