Coping With Email Stress

Are you overwhelmed by the amount of email you receive? Are you stressed by the thought of missing or not responding promptly to an important message?

If you are, take heart — new research provides some suggestions that can ease your state of mind.

University of British Columbia researchers discovered that checking your email less often can help reduce psychological stress.

In the study, some of the 124 adult participants — including students, financial analysts, medical professionals, and others — were instructed to limit checking email to three times daily for a week.

Others were told to check email as often as they could (which turned out to be about the same number of times that they normally checked their email prior to the study).

These instructions were then reversed for the participants during a subsequent week. During the study period, participants also answered brief daily surveys, including information about their stress levels.

“Our findings showed that people felt less stressed when they checked their email less often,” said Kostadin Kushlev, the study’s lead author and a Ph.D. candidate at University of British Columbia’s Department of Psychology.

Changing inbox behavior may be easier said than done, however.

“Most participants in our study found it quite difficult to check their email only a few times a day,” said Kushlev.

“This is what makes our obvious-in-hindsight findings so striking: People find it difficult to resist the temptation of checking email, and yet resisting this temptation reduces their stress.”

Kushlev’s inspiration for the study came from his own experiences with email overload. “I now check my email in chunks several times a day, rather than constantly responding to messages as they come in,” he says. “And I feel better and less stressed.”

He also notes that organizations may help reduce employee stress by encouraging their workers to check their email in chunks rather than constantly responding to messages.

The study is published online in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.

Source: University of British Columbia


Man stressed by email photo by shutterstock.