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Is email and social media effecting your health? Guest Post from Ann McCracken

Posted Monday March 11th, 2013, 5:55 pm by

Do you feel emails and social media are taking over your life? According to a University of California, Irvine and US Army Researchers, people who check their work email regularly exhibit higher states of ‘alertness’ and less focus than they do if they are cut off from email entirely.

Heart rate

Email overload heartbeat

Heart rate monitors were attached to computer users in a suburban office setting, while software sensors detected how often the users switched windows. People who read email, changed screens twice as often and were in a continuous “high alert” state, with more constant heart rates. Those removed from email for five days experienced more natural, variable heart rates but reported feeling isolated from on-going information.

Some suggestions to reduce these unwanted health effects could be:

  • controlling email log-in times
  • batching messages
  • using ‘unavailable’ auto replies to help set expectations of senders

Investor Harj Taggar weaned himself off email on his phone, and noticed a marked improvement in his concentration as a result. Independent research has also found that a large percentage of email adds little value to the individual’s or the organisation’s day.

When Thierry Breton, CEO and chairman of Atos, announced they would be phasing out internal email altogether, it was considered radical, but it has subsequently been shown to be a move in the right direction by Atos Consulting’s own research on workplace well-being and performance.

In one week, 300 people in Atos Consulting sent or received 85,000 messages. The majority of employees found the volume of email unmanageable and many of the messages unimportant.

One in four managers claimed to spend more than 25% of their time writing emails that add no value to their work. Simply reading these messages can swallow up 28% of time in a working day.

The research concluded – At best, they are a “productivity drain”, at worst, they result in under performance and employee disengagement.

If you can’t go that far you could try:

  • summarising the content in the heading, thus focusing the recipient on your message e.g.’Training confirmed for 12th February’ rather than ‘Forthcoming Training’
  • copying only those who should be aware of your message to reduce time wasting and request others do the same
  • resisting the temptation to read and forward ‘fun/cute/outrageous’ circulars and keep that for home computers

Email often results in mis-communication, as intonation and body language are missing from the communication. My own personal experience reinforces this and I find a quick telephone chat can enhance rapport and clarify meanings or talking directly to a colleague if they are in the same room/building is useful and may involve a little walking exercise.  Email is not a substitute for basic conversation with all the nuances you get from face to face interaction.

Constantly checking emails and social media removes an individual from contact with those around them and in a one-to-one or group situation, makes friends/colleagues feel secondary to the unknown person on the end of a smart phone or tablet.AMC logo

We cannot ignore 21st century communication but we CAN choose how we use it, ensuring balanced mental health and well-being.

Ann McCracken is Director of AMC2 and Vice President ISMAUK.  She is author of ‘The Stress Gremlins’.   This originally appeared on on www.amc2.co.uk.

If either you or anyone in your organisation is suffering with stress ask us about how our Brilliant Workshop can hep you and your staff take control of your inbox and your day.

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  • Well said! We can and should reduce the negative impact of email addiction. That said, I’d add that even when we must use email, there’s no need to despair – email can be used effectively and create good rapport and human interaction – IF you use it correctly. That means acquiring the skills of expressing your intent and emotional state in the message… and yes, it can be done if you pay attention. For a start, ask yourself how the recipient will interpret what you write!

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