You probably donâ€™t 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, â€śA Pace Not Dictated by Electrons: An Empirical Study of Work Without Email,â€ť 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 peopleâ€™s 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.
â€śThe fact that we found that people are less stressed when they donâ€™t have e-mail shows that there are ways to change the way we use e-mail in the work setting,â€ť explained Gloria Mark, an informatics professor who has been studying the effects of e-mail in the workplace since 2004. â€śWe 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€ť
Ms. Mark also suggests taking â€śe-mail vacationsâ€ť where people take a few days away from their in-box.
â€śWe 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, peopleâ€™s stress levels went down compared with when they were using e-mails,â€ť 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 â€śswitched windows an average of 37 times per hour. Those without changed screens half as often â€“ about 18 times in an hour.â€ť
But there was a downside to completely walking away from e-mail. Participants reported that they felt â€śisolatedâ€ť 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.