154,965 registered members
Email ‘vacations' decrease stress
[Posted: Fri 04/05/2012 by Gillian Tsoi www.irishhealth.com]
Being cut off from work email significantly reduces stress and allows employees to focus far better, according to a new study in the US.
Heart rate monitors were attached to computer users in a suburban office, while software sensors detected how often they switched windows.
People who read emails changed screens twice as often and were in a steady "high alert" state, with more constant heart rates. Meanwhile, those who were removed from email for five days experienced more natural, variable heart rates.
"We found that when you remove email from workers' lives, they multitask less and experience less stress," said informatics professor Gloria Mark, from the University of California, Irvine, who co-authored the study.
Those with no email said that they felt better able to do their jobs and stay on task, with fewer stressful and time-wasting interruptions.
People with email switched windows an average of 37 times per hour, while those without email changed screens half as often - about 18 times per hour.
She said the findings could be useful for boosting productivity and suggested that controlling email login times, batching messages or other strategies might be helpful.
"Email vacations on the job may be a good idea," she noted. "We need to experiment with that."
Those taking part in the study were computer-dependent employees at the US Army's Natick Soldier Systems Center outside Boston, Massachusetts.
Prof Mark said it was hard to recruit volunteers for the study, but "participants loved being without email, especially if their manager said it was OK. In general, they were much happier to interact in person."
Getting up and walking to someone's desk offered physical relief too, she said.
Other research has shown that people with steady "high alert" heart rates have more cortisol, a hormone linked to stress. Stress on the job, in turn, has been linked to a variety of health problems.
Study subjects worked in a variety of positions and were evenly split between women and men.
The only downside to 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.
The study - called ‘A Pace Not Dictated by Electrons' - was carried out by researchers from the University of California and the US Army. It will be presented this month (May) at the Association for Computing Machinery's Computer-Human Interaction Conference in Austin, Texas.
The study was funded by the Army and the US National Science Foundation.
|To join the discussion, register by clicking here|