How to Change Your Relationship with Email to Decrease Stress & Improve Concentration
A new U.C. Irvine study shows that you may want to adjust how you handle your email to lower your stress and increase your productivity and overall happiness. Specifically, taking breaks, or “vacations” from email., may help you achieve these positive results. (Then again, isn’t that what YouTube is for?)
The study compared two groups of employees: one with regular, consistent email access, and another without email for five days straight. Heart rate monitors measured stress levels, while another device measured the number of times the users switched between windows.
Those on “email vacation” had natural, variable heart rates indicative of low stress, while the other group exhibited more constant “high alert” heart rates. (Who knew those little dings on your computer could send people into jungle-like survival mode?) People with “high alert” heart rates tend to have more cortisol, a hormone linked to stress—and stress is linked to all sorts of unpleasant health problems.
The group without email access reported that they felt better able to do their jobs and stay focused, with fewer stressful and time-wasting interruptions. That makes sense, as the group using email multitasked more, on average switching windows 37 times per hour, twice as much compared to their email-free counterparts, who switched windows 18 times per hour.
Additionally, the email-free participants reported that they were much happier to get up and interact with their colleagues in person. We remember the days when you actually had to talk to peoples’ faces. The gossip was really intense back then.
While it’s not realistic that we’d just take a break from email for five days, we can apply some of the lessons from these findings in helpful ways. For example, it might behoove us to control and limit our email login times or batch our messages. Or, you can always take a quick Fifty Shades of Grey bathroom break once every few hours.
Source: University of California, Irvine (2012). Email ‘vacations’ decrease stress, increase concentration, researchers say. EurekaAlert. Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-05/uoc--ed050312.php
More On ChickRx: