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Checking emails stresses out staff

14 August 2007

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Practice managers should check their emails only a few times a day to reduce stress levels at work, a study suggests.

Experts say a constant stream of emails can stress out workers, causing them to become tired, frustrated and unproductive as they attempt to keep up with emails throughout the day.  

A Scottish survey of 177 people found that 34% felt stressed by the sheer number of emails and obligation to respond quickly.

Employees working on a computer typically switched their applications to view their emails as many as 30 or 40 times an hour, for anything from a few seconds to a minute, the report shows.

Lead author Dr Karen Renaud, from the University of Glasgow’s Computing Science Department said: “Email is the thing that now causes us the most problems in our working lives.

“It’s an amazing tool, but it’s got out of hand. Email harries you. You want to know what’s in there, especially if it’s from a family member or friends, or your boss, so you break off what you are doing to read the email.”

She says that when workers return to work after checking their emails – many lose their chain of thought, so become less productive.

“People’s brains get tired from breaking off from something every few minutes to check emails,” she says.

“The more distracted you are by distractions, including email, then you are going to be more tired and less productive.”

She adds that staff should never press their colleagues to respond to an email as they would to a phone call, as this can “negatively affect all other work activities.”

University of Glasgow

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Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

“Our PCT seems to think that the email in the PMs office is to be bombarded with all the printing that used to be done by them. I feel like applying to SOGAT for membership. The savings made by PCTs so widely reported was probably due to the cut in their stationery budgets as they’re sending everything to practices by email to print off” – Name and address

“The emails don’t bother me, but huge attachments do. I have my Outlook set to pop up a preview in the corner of the screen when an email arrives, so I can read it straight away or leave it until later. I find it useful” – Sue, Hull