Study found that using work email outside of working hours, receiving ‘push’ emails, and personality can contribute to additional email stress that impacts work and home life
Email is an essential communication tool of 2.5 billion people worldwide, who, on average, spend more than one hour a day using it. Email is however, a double-edged sword that can also impact one’s ability to prioritize tasks, disrupt workflow, and create added stress that negatively impacts work productivity and home life.
The Future Work Centre recently released a report that examined the experience of over 2,000 people from a variety of sectors and industries using email in the U.K. Factors like technology, behaviour, demographics, work-life balance, and personality were discovered to contribute to the perception of email pressure, or stress.
Emails that are automatically received on mobile devices or computers, also known as ‘push’ emails, were used by almost half of the population sampled, and was left on all day by 62% of them. It was discovered that there was a strong correlation between using push emails and higher perceived stress, and those who left their email on all day were also more likely to report higher stress. Checking email early in the morning or late at night to cope with work pressures was also associated with higher perceived stress, and interestingly, only a small correlation between volume of email and email pressure was observed, a stark contrast to what most people would assume as the number one contributor to email-related stress.
Work-life balance and personality also seem to play a role in how email pressures are perceived and how one copes with it. Those who perceived higher email pressures were more likely to let it negatively affect their home life, while on the other hand, interference from home life or caring responsibilities also positively correlated with the increased perception of email stress. It was also reported that people with a high core self-evaluation who are able to create work-life boundaries and control situations, in comparison to those with low self-core evaluation who cannot, are less likely to allow email pressure impact them, and instead view it as a necessary part of their job.
While there is no general solution suited to reduce email pressures, the researchers of the study recommend that individual employees can make both behaviour and mindset changes to help cope with email-induced stress. This includes launching your email application only when needed, considering how much push email is actually helping you, examining whether answering work emails after hours is necessary, reflecting on emotional responses triggered by email from specific people or on certain topics, and evaluating your email writing style.
Written by Fiona Wong, PhD