Emails cause stress! Article published in Cork Evening Echo 9.1.2016
This recent article by David Linnane looks at how our urge to constantly check emails can cause huge stress and affect our personal relationship. He called me to ask for my comments:
With the Christmas holidays well and truly over, many of us are back under the mountain of emails that dominates modern life. While emails can save a lot of time at work, for many people, they have allowed the working day to bleed over into their personal lives. For some, the constant urge to deal with emails has even started to affect their family life and personal relationships.
Stress from work and emails can cause serious health problems, according to Alison Winfield of Mindfully Well Counselling Cork. She said that with constant access to emails, people were reaching breaking point. “We’re available 24/7. We can’t turn them off, so the brain and the body never switch off,” she said. “Stress can cause an increase in blood pressure. It means exhaustion when you go to bed. Even though you might think you’ve had a good night’s sleep, your brain has been ticking over all night.
“It can really affect your mood. You can suffer from anxiety and depression. It can even lead to complete burnout or breakdown.” She described some of the people she helps as “the walking wounded” who don’t realise just how stressed they have become. “Their stress levels are through the roof, and their bodies are breaking down.”
Ms Winfield said that what she was seeing in her practice is borne out in research carried out on workplace and email stress. Earlier this week the Future Work Centre in London issued a report advising people to cut out constant email updates to beat stress.
After surveying 2,000 people, they found that people who had their having a phone’s email app running all the time led to serious frustration. They advise people to take control of their emails, instead of letting their emails take control of them.
The two most stressful habits found in the survey were people leaving their emails on all day, and checking them late at night and early in the morning. They also found a strong link between people allowing their phone to instantly inform them that they had an email and perceived pressure from emails. This pressure was also found to have a negative effect on relationships. Those working in IT, marketing, public relations and the media were most affected by stress.
Dr Richard MacKinnon, who led the study, said: “Our research shows email is a double-edged sword. Whilst it can be a valuable communication tool, it’s clear that it’s a source of stress for many of us.”
Ms Winfield said that she advises people to discuss their situation with management, and to set rules for themselves. “The culture in some companies means always being available. Even on holidays. People need to make management aware. It’s in their interests too, as stress can lead to a lot of absenteeism,” she said.
She advised people not to check their emails on their phone late night or early morning, but to set times for themselves instead. “What I always say is decide two or three periods a day to deal with them, and don’t set them to pop up on your screen constantly.”
For more information on stress in the workplace go to my Stress Counselling Cork page.
Need some more advice and support?
If you are feeling low or depressed and would like to talk it over with complete confidentiality, call Alison Winfield, Mindfully Well Counselling Cork on 087 9934541.
Book a counselling session today!