Are you chained to email, constantly checking for new messages and replying to them on the spot?
A study from the University of California Irvine (UCI) suggests that taking vacations from email can significantly reduce your stress level and allow you to focus better on the job.
The study involved attaching heart rate monitors to computer users in a suburban office setting, while software sensors detected how often the workers switched windows. People who read email changed screens twice as frequently (37 times per hour compared to 18 for the no-email group) and were in a steady “high alert” state.
Those participants who were removed from email for five days had more natural, variable heart rates than their counterparts. People with steady “high alert” heart rates have more cortisol, a hormone linked to stress and health problems.
“We found that when you remove email from workers’ lives, they multitaskless and experience less stress,” says study co-author Gloria Mark, an informatics professor at UCI.
Those participants who were removed from email reported feeling better able to do their jobs and stay on task, with fewer stressful and time-wasting interruptions.
While checking and responding to emails is likely not an optional task in your workplace, reducing your frequency of dealing with emails would likely have positive results for you.
Mark says the study’s findings could be useful for boosting productivity. She suggests that controlling email login times, batching messages or using other strategies might prove helpful.
She notes that the study participants who were removed from email loved the break, especially if their manager said it was OK, adding, “In general they were much happier to interact in person.”
Getting up and walking to a coworker’s desk also provided the benefits of a little exercise and stretching.
Study participants worked in a variety of positions and were evenly split between men and women. The only downside of the experience was that the individuals without email reported feeling somewhat isolated. However, they were able to garner critical information from colleagues who did have email.