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July 12, 2012

Study: Workplace Email Bad for Your Focus, Health

New research from UC-Irvine and the US military sheds interesting light on the important topic of workplace email—specifically on how workplace email affects people’s health and focus.

For the study, email was completely shut off to 13 information workers for five consecutive workdays. Heart rate monitors were worn by participants in the study, and the frequency with which they switched windows on their computer was tracked. At the end, researchers conducted interviews with participants on the experience. 

The study generated several fascinating findings from those cut off from email:

  • They had greater focus—no-emailers switched back and forth between windows on their computer less than half as much as those who remained connected to email. No-emailers also reported feeling able to “focus more intently on their work.”
  • They were less stressed and had better heart health—no-emailers had much less stress, and much more normal heart rates than their plugged in counterparts.
  • They had more face-to-face communication—instead of just firing off an email, the no-emailers picked up to phone, or talked to colleagues face-to-face. The no-emailers saw this as a benefit.
It’s great insight into a key trend we’ve been following for some time, touching on factors related to workplace email that touch us all as human beings.

How might you increase your focus and reduce your stress through more effective use of email?

— David Grossman


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