Email. Love it or hate it, it’s here, it’s all around us and it is relentless in its onslaught.
One way of managing email would be simply to turn off your computer and demand your friends, colleagues and family communicate with you by other means, such as the telephone, sending a letter by post or even having a face-to -face conversation.
Why it might even seem appealing to do this is because of the overwhelm that can be experienced through receiving so many email communications each day. Emails that consume our precious time and demand our attention, when really we’d like to be able to simply just get on with the important stuff: like doing our work.
It has been estimated that some service workers spend 28% of their workday answering email. No wonder we can get to the end of another busy day wondering where all that time went and why it can feel as if we haven’t got anything done.
It has been recognised that our social media and email habits are contributing to our continuing state of distractedness and lack of focus. New research by Emma Russell from Kingston Business School was presented at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference that discussed the negative outcomes email can lead to if not handled correctly. This includes damaging your mental health. Worse still it could also damaging the mental health of your colleagues.
The seven deadly sins of email:
1. Ping pong email – constant emails going backwards and forwards creating long chains
This can be as annoying as ping pong texts where irrelevant information or replies are being generated for no good purpose what so ever. Sure common etiquette suggests when it is polite to respond or to say thank you. But every conversation needs to come to a timely end.
2. Emailing out of hours
Being so busy, it’s often very tempting to “save” our emailing to the end of the day or at unseemly early hours when any other self-respecting person would be safely tucked up in bed. If you are looking for kudos points to look super keen or an insomniac, then this habit may suit you. But it often engenders guilt in the other person for not being awake, online or in receiver mode, and also means the message could have a greater chance of being lost in the great volume of other email dross entering in-boxes every day.
3. Emailing when in company
Sorry, but this is simply rude. Don’t do it. It’s a good way to lose friends and negatively influence people.
4. Ignoring emails completely
Tempting as this can be sometimes, this is also rude if the sender is expecting a response in a timely manner. If you are procrastinating about a response because you are uncertain of how to reply, that is one thing, but I have certain contacts that only seem to respond to messages and requests when it suits them. It drives me bonkers and is extremely irritating if you need their input.
5. Requesting read receipts
The only time I have ever used this was because the recipient was a known “non-responder” and I needed to know that the message had got through. Otherwise this is simply creating more work for others and is mostly completely unnecessary. If need be, use registered post.
6. Responding immediately to an email alert
OK guilty as charged. I will sometimes do this because my thinking is along the lines of “I’m only on line for a short time and might forget later” or it is a subject I feel deserves an immediate response. Impulsivity has always been one of my middle names. The trouble is one thing will often lead to another and 45 minutes later I am still stuck in answering mode instead of addressing the priority item task I had set myself to achieve.
7. Automated replies
Guilty as charged again. Some folks seem to use these frequently not only when they are away on business or holidays, but even when taking a relatively short break. Do I really need to know you are unavailable for five hours on the 15th of March? If you rely on email contact for business, then perhaps an automated response indicating when you will be available or an alternative means of contact is appropriate.
Why does email pose a risk to our mental wellbeing?
Basically, dealing with too many or poor handling of emails during your working day, leads to stress. Inappropriate use of email can lead to a feeling that you have to be available to respond at all times and has resulted in some people feeling that they can’t switch off.
Living with prolonged stress not affects your immune system. it can lead to the development of anxiety problems and depression. At a time when mental health issues are becoming more common in the workplace, employers and staff need to be aware how a seemingly innocuous and common work tool needs to be handled judiciously to maintain our wellbeing.
How does email affect you in your working day?
Has your workplace taken steps to ensure your email policy keeps email working for you, rather than being an electronic albatross hanging around your neck?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Until next time,
Ref: news release Kingston University
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