Technology is an increasing source of stress to employees, according to recently published research which said that one third of workers were caused stress by email.
Researchers at Glasgow University and Paisley University found that the pressure to respond immediately to emails was a cause of stress for 34% of employees. Women are worse hit than men and a further 28% of workers were 'driven' by the need to answer mails promptly.
Computer scientist Karen Renaud, psychologist Judith Ramsay and statistician Mario Hair have produced the study, looking at the impact of email on workers' lives. They found that email interruptions were disrupting work and causing anxiety.
The research showed that employees significantly underestimated the number of times that they checked their email. Half of the participants said they checked email more than once an hour and 35% said it was once every 15 minutes.
The researchers' use of computer monitoring software, though, found that the typical worker checked email 30 to 40 times an hour.
"Many individuals seem to feel pressured by email and feel this pressure negatively as stress," said the research. "Females, in particular, tended to feel more pressure to respond than males."
"Email is the thing that now causes us the most problems in our working lives. It's an amazing tool, but it's got out of hand," said Renaud of Glasgow University.
"The practice of checking email is not only likely to induce stress, but is also counter-productive," said Renaud. "The problem is that when you go back to what you were doing, you've lost your chain of thought and, of course, you are less productive. People's brains get tired from breaking off from something every few minutes to check emails. The more distracted you are by distractions, including email, then you are going to be more tired and less productive."
The study, which looked at the working habits of 177 people, concluded that employers should relieve email-induced stress on employees by not putting pressure on them to respond to emails immediately. It said that employees should set aside dedicated email time in order to avoid negatively impacting other work.