You are not alone in feeling overwhelmed with emails (dubbed email stress) – in fact, science has consistently shown that emails are a leading cause of stress.
Are you constantly burdened by an overflowing inbox? Do you daydream about jumping on a plane to escape the never-ending stream of emails? You’re probably suffering from email stress.
Earlier this year, French legislators began to push the passing of new labor laws advocating a ban on employers emailing their employees after work hours. While one solution might be moving to France, we’ve compiled 8 simpler tips below to help you deal with email pressure and inbox angst.
8 Tips for Reducing Email Stress
It might seem odd to restrict email in an age of hyper-communication, but research consistently reveals the benefits of regulating email habits and expectations. A few years ago, a study found that employees were happier and more productive after taking a week long “email vacation”, than if they simply checked their emails regularly, Last month, a study by researchers at Virginia Tech and Colorado State University linked after-hours email expectations to increased emotional stress and hindered work-life balance. While this is probably not surprising to many of us, it still continues to be an issue.
Luckily we’e got some tips on how to manage your email stress.
1 – Open your Inbox Only When you Need To
Only opening your email application when you wish to use it is a surefire way to avoid email stress. A study by the Future Work Centre revealed that there is a strong relationship between push email notifications and increased email pressure. Checking your emails early in the morning and late at night also contributed to more email pressure. There’s just no winning with the distracting, stressful effects of constant email reminders! With 62% of working adults leaving their emails open all the time, this is a serious issue. So, leave that inbox closed until you need to send an email.
2 – Set a Designated Email Answering Time
Setting aside a certain time of the day to check your emails is dubbed “Batch-processing”. It’s a great idea since it maximises your work efficiency by decreasing the number of times you switch tasks, and gives a greater sense of control. We suggest choosing a few key times each day to check your inbox. Just a warning – avoid doing this first thing in the morning as it can elevate your stress levels further.
3 – Switch Off those Email Notifications
Turn off all your email notifications! They’re doing little more than distracting you from your task, and they gradually build up your stress as the day moves on. Researchers have also linked the buzzing of email notifications with higher stress hormone levels. So put your phone on silent, and enjoy your freedom!
4 – Establish an Email Vacation Policy
You deserve a break from work now and then, and you probably spent all year dreaming about your vacation in Hawaii. So why are you still thinking about (or checking!) your emails while you’re away? Be strict on yourself – you need a vacation policy. Firstly, clean out your inbox entirely before you leave. Secondly, set up a detailed instructional auto-response to let everyone know you will not be available via email.
5 – Consider Another Form of Communication
Before the technological age, people talked in real life instead. Jump up out your office chair and go talk about a task in person. You’ll reduce your stress, get a bit of social interaction and give your eyes a break from your screen. If they’re not nearby, pick up the phone. It’s a bonus that spoken communication tends to be clearer so you might even solve your issues faster!
6 – Become an Expert at Writing Emails
Making it a habit to ensure that your emails are clear and concise can save you a bunch of time. You’ll avoid the need to answer emails asking for clarification, and it’ll reduce reading time. It’ll only take an extra 30 seconds – promise!
7 – Use your “To” and “CC” Fields Sparingly
It’s tempting to keep everyone in the loop, but it should always be done sparingly. Just think about how often you start to attack your inbox with stressed vigour, only to find out that half the emails were unrelated to what you are actually working on. Keep your itchy trigger finger away from the CC field and mention it in real life if you just need someone to be aware that something is happening in the office.
8 – Move to France
If all else fails, hop on that plane and make your dreams come true.
A Final Thought: Your Perception Plays a Role in Email Stress
Lastly, and perhaps most important to remember: email stress is often a result of perception, and not necessarily linked to the number of emails received and sent. Particularly in work environments that are invested in the digital world and characterised by “always-on” culture, email stress can be a product of the implicit expectations and normative behaviours in a workplace, which may not have developed intentionally.
For employers, developing a healthy digital culture is key. You could consider banning email between certain hours of the day, or having “email-free days”. Alternatively, revise your employee induction programs. Try explicitly stating your email expectations off the bat (and tempering these expectations to match the science!).
Individually, you should be mindful of our own feelings when dealing with emails. Do you feel anxious? Do you worry that people might deem you inept if you don’t reply immediately? If you have good email habits in place and have made these clear to others, then you have nothing to worry about!