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What the data says: Email and health

Dr Elizabeth Braithwaite describing current findings from our ongoing research.
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So a couple of large research studies have shown that there’s a clear relationship between feelings of email overload from workplace stress. But not many studies have tried to examine this relationship in more detail. So for example, we know that having a large email volume contributes to feelings of email overload. And also an organisational culture where there’s an expectation of a quick turnaround of emails really contributes to these feelings of email overload. However, our research is really aimed at trying to examine this in a bit more detail.
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So we know, for example, that periods of rest and recovery, regular periods of rest and recovery during evenings and weekends are really important to maintain good levels of health and productivity over the long term. But what we find really is that having access to work emails on laptops and tablets and phones makes it actually quite hard to disconnect from work and disconnect from emails during the evenings and the weekends. So our theory is really that engaging with work emails outside of normal working hours is driving high levels of email overload and really contributing to poorer levels of health and poorer productivity in the workplace.
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So we’re currently conducting a large survey of UK employees to try and examine this relationship in more detail. Now that’s currently ongoing, but we have collected some pilot data from 204 employees in the UK. And the results of this pilot data were really interesting. So it showed that 67% of employees reported that dealing with their work emails was quite overwhelming. We also found that those employees who engage more with their work emails during leisure time also report higher feelings of email overload. And also that higher email overload, as we expected, was associated with poorer physical health, poorer psychological health, and also poorer productivity whilst at work.
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So really we’ve got some preliminary evidence to suggest that our hypotheses around engagement with work email outside of normal working hours are really driving these effects. But of course, we need to examine this in a larger sample. And really it’s important to try and understand this relationship so that organisations can really target interventions at improving workplace health via reducing feelings of email overload, which will hopefully improve workplace stress, improve health and improve productivity.

In this video Dr Liz Braithwaite outlines data from some of the research we have conducted on email use and the relationship with stress and productivity.

Does the data Dr Elizabeth Braithwaite describes fit with your work experiences?

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Workplace Wellbeing: Stress and Productivity at Work

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