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Study findings

Direct link between email and stress


Employees were more prone to increased stress when reading and sending emails which was indicated by their increased blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol level. 

The employees were particularly annoyed to receive a new email when it was irrelevant, required an immediate response or when it interrupted and distracted them from their tasks.

It also came to the fore that that employees were glad and happy to receive new email for timely information, in response and in gratification for their completed work, the study has found. 

Researchers — Professor Tom Jackson, Dr Gillian Ragsdell, and Laura Marulanda-Carter from UK´s Loughborough University– came up with the findings while exploring the physiological and psychological impact of email on employees.

The findings showed a direct link between email and stress. It indicates that employees were more prone to increased stress when reading and sending emails, and less susceptible when retrieving and filing email messages. 

The researchers tracked the blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels of a group of 30 staff, as well as paper-based diaries kept by the participants.

The participants, in their diaries, also raised a number of adverse effects of email use, such as misinterpretation, increased expectations, alienation and blame culture.

But according to Jackson, email was not an enemy. "Over the years email has been the focus of many research studies and sometimes portrayed as a bad communication medium. Indeed, this study has shown that email causes stress when compared to having email free time," he said. 

However, if email was compared to other ways of communicating which was also observed in this study it was no worse than any other media.

"Multi-tasking email alongside other communication media, such as phone and face-to-face meetings, increases the risk of becoming stressed," he said.

Suggesting ways to reduce workplace stress, he said better training for staff on how to manage their communication media, from better diary control to limiting how often they check their email accounts.

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