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E-mail hiatus reduces employee stress
An experiment that shut off e-mail at a U.S. company lowered employee stress levels in less than a week, a college professor said.
Gloria Mark of the University of California, Irvine, recorded what happened to 13 workers at the U.S. Army’s Natick Soldiers Systems Center outside Boston when they were cut off from e-mail for five days.
“A number of studies have talked about the detrimental effects of stress in the workplace,” Mark told the Los Angeles Times. “Our study shows that people experience more stress when they have e-mail.”
Mark and her team made baseline measurements of the volunteers’ heart activity and other stress indicators and then continued to monitor those levels for the five days they were blocked from e-mail.
“We couldn’t see a discernible trend on days 1 and 2,” Mark said. “But at day 5, the pattern started to become clear: People became less stressed after being away from e-mail.”
Mark said the volunteers no longer had to keep one eye on their Inboxes and compensated by old-school methods such as picking up the phone or even talking face-to-face to their co-workers.
The volunteers said they actually liked the lack of communication and were able to focus better on their assigned tasks.
Getting back on e-mail at the end of the experiment brought back their previous stress levels.
“People said they felt liberated, and the euphoria lasted for a few days,” Mark said. “They really tried very hard to make a change, but then everybody reverted back to their old ways.”
Copyright 2012 by United Press International