You probably donât need a doctor or scientist to tell you this, but your e-mail could be killing you.
A new study released Thursday by the University of California, Irvine, which was co-written with United States Army researchers, found that people who do not look at e-mail on a regular basis at work are less stressed and more productive.
The study, âA Pace Not Dictated by Electrons: An Empirical Study of Work Without Email,â looked at 13 workers in a typical office setting and asked them to discontinue e-mail for five days. The results were that during the e-mail hiatus, these people spent longer periods of time focusing on a single task at work and shifted between computer windows much less than those who were slaves to their in-box.
The researchers also tested peopleâs stress levels by attaching wearable heart rate monitors and found that their stress levels were much lower when not checking e-mail on a regular basis.
âThe fact that we found that people are less stressed when they donât have e-mail shows that there are ways to change the way we use e-mail in the work setting,â explained Gloria Mark, an informatics professor who has been studying the effects of e-mail in the workplace since 2004. âWe suggest doing what we call batching e-mails, where organizations send e-mails once or twice a day, rather than continually, so employees know not to check their e-mail every 10 minutes.â
Ms. Mark also suggests taking âe-mail vacationsâ where people take a few days away from their in-box.
âWe were able to get second-by-second stress levels from our tests and we found that over the five-day period away from e-mail, peopleâs stress levels went down compared with when they were using e-mails,â Ms. Mark said.
The study, which was financed by the Army and the National Science Foundation, also found that people who use e-mail on a regular basis âswitched windows an average of 37 times per hour. Those without changed screens half as often â about 18 times in an hour.â
But there was a downside to completely walking away from e-mail. Participants reported that they felt âisolatedâ without access to e-mail for long periods of time. But the study participants quickly found a solution: they asked colleagues who still had access to e-mail about important work events.