- “Technostress” is a term for what happens when technology starts to interfere with our health and happiness.
- A professor who studies the topic said being “always on” can lead to anxiety and depression and poor physical health.
- Some experts say employers have a responsibility to limit after-hours email – but the onus is also on you to minimise the amount of time you spend in your inbox.
Writing in The Guardian, Moya Sarner describes an experiment in which she tried different strategies for managing her unruly inbox.
While researching the effects of having constant access to email – territory that comes with owning a smartphone – Sarner spoke to Sir Cary Cooper, an organizational psychologist at Manchester Business School. “This ‘always on’ culture of emails is killing people,” Cooper told her.
Here’s the rest of his chilling quotation: “It leads to worry, anxiety, depression, and physical ill-health. There’s a whole field now called technostress, and the evidence is that unconstrained emails, where there is no guidance by employers, are damaging for people’s health.”
While you may not be familiar with the term “technostress,” you’ve almost certainly experienced the symptoms in your own life. Business Insider previously spoke to Ron Friedman, a psychologist and the author of “The Best Place To Work,” who said that constantly checking email can damage both productivity and overall quality of life.
Like Cooper, Friedman pointed to employers as the potential solution to this growing problem. “I think managers would do well to take this research [on the benefits of limiting how much time you spend checking email] to heart,” he said. “They can start by empowering their employees to turn off their email when they need to be focused on work, and modelling this behaviour themselves so that their team members have clear evidence that it’s acceptable.”
To be sure, some employers have already drawn global media attention for doing just that.
For example, Sarner reports that Porsche said any correspondence sent to employees between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. should be “returned to sender.” And French workers now have a “right to disconnect” from technology, meaning companies have to negotiate with employees to agree on when and how they can “switch off.”
As for what you can do? Writing in Thrive Global, Heidi Hanna, who is the executive director for the American Institute of Stress, advises against multitasking whenever possible. If you’re supposed to be working on a project report, toggling between the document and your inbox won’t do you any good.