A study done by a research group at the University of California has found that workers who disconnect from email and text messages from work for a short duration have lower levels of stress and are better able to concentrate on other tasks. Business News says the results should prove enlightening for business workers, even as it adds more stress to bosses who find it difficult to proceed with business as usual when employees disconnect when on vacation and ScienceDaily adds that despite this new bit of knowledge, it’s likely difficult for most workers to disconnect, especially in a tough economy where competition for jobs can keep workers connect virtually all of the time.
To come to these conclusions, the research team enlisted a multitude of volunteers who had heart monitors attached to them as they went about their work on a computer. In addition to being able to measure stress though heart rate, the group also tracked computer usage, specifically the number of times a volunteer switched between different windows on a computer screen. The researchers found that those volunteers who were allowed to continue using email, switched between windows twice as often as those who did not. They also found that those continuing to use email experienced a steady higher than normal heart rate, while those that abstained, showed a normal variable heart rate.
More specifically, the researchers found that email users switched between windows on average of 37 times every hour. Those that abstained from email however, switched on average of just 18 times an hour. The research team says this demonstrates that the need to constantly check email, or to multi-task is a stress inducing activity as workers feel pressured to keep up with what is going on, even as they are trying to get work done.
Business News says these results, if used correctly might actually help bosses get workers to be more productive by instigating corporate wide email downtime, or better yet, to force employees to disconnect from email when away from the office, thereby allowing them to recharge better before coming back to work.
ScienceDaily observes that the researchers also noted that finding volunteers for the project was difficult but that those that participated reported a great sense of relief at not having to monitor their email constantly. They also found that in the absence of email, the volunteers were more likely to get up and walk to where their co-workers were when wishing to correspond, an activity they note, that is also stress reducing.