Are you addicted to checking your work email?
Do you check it first thing in the morning and right before you go to bed?
Do you check it on work breaks and even on vacations?
Well, here’s a piece of advice: Stop.
According to a new study by researchers at UC Irvine, people who check their work email regularly exhibit higher states of stress, and less focus, than workers who continue to do their jobs while being cut off from email entirely.
The study examined the heart rate of workers at a suburban office outside of Boston. For part of the study a group of workers were asked to go about their email-filled days as usual. In another part of the study they were asked to take a five day email “vacation.” The researchers fitted the group with wearable heart rate monitors capable of taking heart rate measurements second by second for the duration of the study.
Participants in the study had a variety of different roles within the organization including managers, administrators, research scientists and technologists, and all of them usually use email during the course of a regular workweek.
The research team, led by UCI informatics professor Gloria Mark, found that when the workers were checking email throughout the day they were in a steady “high alert” heart rate state. When they were banned from checking their emails, they had more natural, variable heart rates.
After spending five days off of email, the participants in the study reported feeling more in control of their work without constantly reading and responding to messages. They also found they had more time to complete work tasks.
And when the experiment was over, most of the participants said they realized that most emails aren’t important.
In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Mark said that for most workers, the idea that we need to be checking email is a myth that we tell ourselves.
“Of course for some jobs it is necessary,” she said. For example, one of the people her team studied works in customer service and found it hard to do her job without email.
“But for most of the other people, they discovered just how unnecessary email was,” she said.