The Future Work Centre of London recently published an extensive survey of how email affects our daily lives, and one of its findings shows a "significant correlation" between people who receive work emails via push notification on their devices and people who are more likely to feel frustrated and anxious. Researchers surveyed just under 2,000 Brits to determine how perceived email pressure and self-reported personality traits like self-esteem, generalized self-efficacy, neuroticism, and locus of control contributed to work life balance.
Folks who automatically received email on their devices, who were informed of emails via push notification, and who left their email on all day were more likely to report perceived email pressure, ie., feelings of frustration and anxiety.
But any millennial with a boss who expects you to be available 22 hours a day knows the peril that comes with failure to respond. I once had a boss who became furious when his personal assistant went off-the-grid for two days during Hurricane Sandy because she didn't have any power. So barring a complete overhaul of how corporate culture treats entry-level employees, what can you do to mitigate the stress of a constant barrage of emails? Here are five suggestions from the Centre:
1. Be Intentional About Checking Email
"You may want to consider launching your email application when you want to use email and closing it down for periods when you don’t wish to be interrupted by incoming emails. In other words, use email when you intend to, not just because it’s always running in the background."
2. Only Sync Your Emails When You Say So
"Consider updating your device to only download emails when you instruct it. This can provide a sense of control over the flow of emails and allow you to concentrate on other tasks."
3. If You Can, Just Shut It Down
Turning off your push notifications altogether can help keep you from feeling distracted.
4. Think About Your Own Over-Abundant Emailing Habits
"Consider how many emails you yourself are sending. Think about the colleagues and clients whom you email, their communication preferences, and the messages you are trying to convey." In other words, are you sending emails about stuff you could easily ask about IRL or over the phone? Don't clutter up your own life by sending unnecessary emails that require replies.
5. Practice Good Email Etiquette To Avoid Follow-ups
"Check your messages for ambiguity, the potential for misinterpretation, and how these messages might contribute to conflict or disharmony at work." At face value, this sounds a little language-policey, which women already experience plenty of in the workplace, but focus on the part about ambiguity. Make sure your emails are as clear as possible to avoid triggering an endless email chain of follow-up clarifications.