It’s not just because your inbox is full.
For many people, email maintenance is always on the to-do list, and it can eat up a solid chunk of each day. But if your inbox is feeling downright stressful, the problem might go beyond the messages themselves—it could be how you’re managing them, according to a new report from the British Psychological Society.
The researchers surveyed 2,000 employees across industries and roles about their email experiences to understand their perceived email pressures. While the volume of emails was a factor in perceived pressure—there was a positive correlation between the two—the researchers identified other stress triggers, as well. For example, almost half of the respondents had “push notifications” for their email—meaning every new email sent an immediate notification to their phones—which was correlated to higher perceived pressure. More than 60 percent left their email on all day, and reported higher levels of email pressure as a result. And while most of us are guilty of checking our phone right when we wake up, or right before we go to sleep, that activity also seemed to increase pressure. Unsurprisingly, managers reported higher levels of stress than lower-level employees.
Researchers also found that email pressure negatively affected work-life balance. Specifically, perceived email pressure was higher in employees who were caretakers at home. It worked in reverse as well—high levels of pressure often lead to instances of home life negatively affecting work.
"Our research shows that email is a double-edged sword,” lead researcher Dr. Richard MacKinnon said in a statement. “Whilst it can be a valuable communication tool, it's clear that it's a source of stress of frustration for many of us. The people who reported it being most useful to them also reported the highest levels of email pressure.”
While there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for managing your email, the researchers did offer a few suggestions that might help you get organized. For example, only launch your inbox when you want to attack your email or consider turning off push notifications on your smartphone device. Get more advice on breaking free from technology here.