Is Your Mail Inbox Making You Sick?

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Image: Getty Images

Put your hand up if you’re guilty of “sleep-texting” or checking your emails while in bed!

With instant communication playing such a huge part in our daily lives, it has freed us up and allowed for workplace flexibility and functionality. Having access to our emails and important documents at our fingertips means we can access them wherever, whenever.

However, if you find yourself checking your emails or social media feeds continuously – even while you’re in bed –  it can come as a cost to your health.

Following along the lines of yesterday’s post, many of us are unknowingly enslaving ourselves by bringing our work life at home with us by continuously feeling compelled to keep up with digital correspondence.

Nearly half of all Australians check their emails when they’re not at work, and a huge 70% of us are guilty of firing up our phones as soon as we get up in the morning, and as we go to sleep.

While keeping tabs on our correspondence and keeping on top of things is a good way of being efficient and up to date, it can also have a negative impact.

New research has found that staying continuously connected to our email inbox and feeling compelled to answer emails anywhere and anytime, we are heading for risks such as chronic fatigue, stress, anxiety, and cardiovascular disease.

This type of “telepressure” can be detrimental to work-life balance, as it re-exposes you to workplace stressors while outside of work.

When people don’t allow for ‘down-time’ and are still ruminating over workplace correspondence, they aren’t switching off from work-mode and are piling up stress which wreaks havoc on their personal health and relationships.

Stress is estimated to cost Australian businesses more than $10 billion a year, and thousands of Australians are subjecting themselves to unnecessary stress by taking their work home with them and being slaves to their phones.

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So why this urgency to respond to emails?

Partly, it is due to the fast-paced world we live in and the instantaneous style of communication which has becomes so part of our lives.

We are often so bombarded with emails, messages, updates, and documents demanding our attention that we feel compelled and often forced to have to keep up on top of it all in order to not lose track or fall behind.

With smartphones and new media such as iPads and tablets allowing us to have instant access to our inboxes, we find that we can’t get away from all these things demanding our attention.

As lead author of the study Larissa Barber explains,

“We all get kind of used to that immediate gratification of getting fast responses and having those communications that are complete.”

Being quick off the mark with prompt responses simply means we feel more productive and helps us to get our tasks done quicker.

However, fast-tracked correspondence also leads to fast-tracked stress. In fact, numerous studies have found that working more hours and inviting more tasks does not make us better at work, it can surprisingly make us less effective.

Certainly, running a successful business and personal agenda demands etiquette and prompt service; but this doesn’t mean we have to answer all correspondence immediately.

Many companies overseas have actually introduced email guidelines for their workers to follow – telling employees that responding to emails outside of work hours is only acceptable in “exceptional circumstances”, and workers aren’t penalised for not responding.

When it comes to telepressure, we must learn to set ourselves our own guidelines and expectations so as not to lead us into stress or a corruption of our work-life balance.

It is helpful to follow this example of companies overseas, and learn to “switch off” when you “knock off”.

Allocating set ’email-checking times’ can be useful too, ensuring that you don’t bring your work and work-related pressure home with you.

For example, just as you would allocate times for the gym or for tea breaks, roster in a period of 10-15 minutes to review and respond to emails. This way, you are keeping yourself in “work mode” while you’re still at work.

It isn’t silly to even add a note along with your email tag line on the bottom of sent mail stating that you will strive to respond between say, 9am-5pm – so if you are worried about delaying or holding off responses then you can achieve more piece of mind knowing that people can see that you are only reachable between certain times.

It is important to keep in mind that while emails and social media are instantaneous in nature, you are not.

The key to reducing workplace stress and bettering work-life balance is by better training in time management and setting in place effective strategies to help to manage communication media.

 

 

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