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E-mail vacations can boost productivity: Study

Last Updated: Saturday, May 5, 2012 - 18:47

Washington: Being cut off from official e-mails not only lowers stress levels but also allows employees to concentrate far better, says a new study.

During the study, researchers attached heart rate monitors to computer users in a suburban office setting. Software sensors detected how often they switched windows.

People who read e-mails changed screens twice as often and were in a steady "high alert" state, with more constant heart rates. Those who did not read e-mails for five days experienced more natural, variable heart rates.
E-mail vacations can boost productivity: Study

"We found that when you remove e-mails from workers` lives, they multitask less and experience less stress," said Gloria Mark, informatics professor at the University of California (Irvine), US, who co-authored the study with Stephen Voida and the US Army`s senior research scientist Armand Cordello.

Participants were computer-dependent civilian employees at the army`s Natick Soldier Systems Centre outside Boston. Those with no e-mails reported feeling better able to do their jobs and stay on task, with fewer stressful and time-wasting interruptions, according to a California statement.

Measurements bore that out, Mark said. People with e-mails switched windows an average of 37 times per hour. Those without, changed screens half as often - about 18 times in an hour.

Mark said the findings could be useful for boosting productivity and suggested that controlling e-mail login times, batching messages or other strategies might be helpful.

"E-mail vacations on the job may be a good idea," she noted. "We need to experiment with that."

Getting up and walking to someone`s desk offered physical relief too, she said. Other research has shown that people with steady "high alert" heart rates have more cortisol, a hormone linked to stress.

Stress on the job, in turn, has been linked to a variety of health problems. Volunteers worked in a variety of positions and were evenly split between women and men groups.


First Published: Saturday, May 5, 2012 - 18:47
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