If you work in an office, at some point you've probably had a coworker evangalise about how much switching off email has changed their life. Turns out, they're right.
New research published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour has found that checking email less frequently reduces stress. There's tons of anecdotal evidence that switching email off for long periods helps you to get stuff done and stress less at work, but now this scientific study backs that up.
During one week, 124 adults were randomly assigned to limit checking their email to three times a day; during the other week, participants could check their email an unlimited number of times per day. We found that during the limited email use week, participants experienced significantly lower daily stress than during the unlimited email use week.
Lower stress levels meant that study participants rated higher on a lot of measures of well-being.
People who checked their emails less often felt less distracted too. Basically, less email means less stress means that you feel better.
In 2012 researchers at the University of California, Irvine, presented work at a conference showing that taking five-day breaks from email meant workers experienced less stress and multitasked less. But while five-day breaks from email are not very practical, checking less often is something many people could achieve – though, as anyone who's tried before knows, it might not be as easy as it sounds.
Most participants in our study found it quite difficult to check their email only a few times a day. This is what makes our obvious-in-hindsight findings so striking: People find it difficult to resist the temptation of checking email, and yet resisting this temptation reduces their stress.
I now check my email in chunks several times a day, rather than constantly responding to messages as they come in. And I feel better and less stressed.