Bing-bong – here comes another email. Most people have constant reminders that email has arrived. Whether it is the familiar bing-bing sound, the little pop-up alerts at the bottom of your computer screen, or buzzes on your smartphone, email is omnipresent. Most people it seems also keep their email window open all day, whether in a separate application or a tab in their browser if they use webmail services like Gmail. But new research confirms earlier studies which suggest this could be harmful to your health.

You have new mail

Being constantly interrupted by email is stressful because you feel a lack of control. Being unable to control our own life is a significant trigger for stress. And when you are stressed you produce hormones which long-term have a negative impact on your body, ultimately causing organ damage if they are present in excess for any length of time.

New research now adds to this knowledge by showing that when you have email “always on” you tend to multi-task much more, with people switching activities from work to email around 37 times an hour if they have an email window constantly open. Such people are in a state of “high alert” as a result and these new findings show that their heart rates are constantly higher too. Constant, fast heart rates are not good for you – they are linked to heart damage.

Furthermore, the constant switching between windows is actually less productive. Your brain cannot accommodate the constant change in focus as easily as we might think. As a result, we have to keep going back to emails to do things again – doubling up on work and ultimately taking longer to do things. Keeping an email window constantly open actually reduces productivity.

The new research also undertook an interesting piece of analysis. The researchers gave people an “email holiday” where they did not look at emails for five days. These individuals had heart rates which were returned to normal and reported that they were much happier. Their stress levels were much lower.

Not only that, but when people were given an email holiday they became MORE productive being able to focus more on their real work.

Having “always on” email is an illusion. You think you are more productive, when in fact you are less efficient and effective. Not only that, you are more stressed and doing your body harm.

Here’s what to do to INCREASE productivity and REDUCE STRESS:

  1. Only open your email program when YOU want to send or answer emails
  2. Switch off all alerts to new incoming emails
  3. Set aside times of the day when you will deal with emails – a couple of times a day is enough
  4. Ensure you have an email processing system in place. Emails will fall into one of three categories: for deletion, for immediate answering, for answering later.
  5. Have an email filing system- your inbox should ALWAYS BE EMPTY once you have completed your email activities

Ultimately your aim should be for you to control email, not the other way around. Your health depends on that.

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