E-mails have become an indispensable method of communication, whether it be for professional, academic or personal purposes. A recent study published by University of British Columbia researchers suggests that limiting the frequency of e-mail consultation reduces daily stress.
During a two-week period, 124 adults from various work and academic environments were submitted to two experimental conditions. During the first week, they had to limit the consultation of their e-mails to a maximum of three times a day (“limited consultation” condition). The following week, the same participants had no restrictions regarding e-mail consultation (“unlimited consultation” condition). Questionnaires were administered to participants on a daily basis to measure various aspects related to stress and psychological well-being.
The results suggest that daily stress was significantly lower when the participants’ e-mail consultation was limited as compared to when it was unlimited. They also felt more productive, more in control of their environment and had higher levels of psychological well-being when e-mail consultation was limited.
Moreover, the experimental condition only affected the number of times participants consulted their e-mails, and had no effect on the amount of e-mails received, read or answered during the day. Indeed, regardless of the experimental condition, participants received equivalent amounts of e-mails and managed to respond to them just as well.
It is important to note that the participants in this study already had some flexibility regarding e-mail consultation. Some occupations do not allow such flexibility and require constant communication via e-mail. Thus, for some people, such a limitation could have the opposite effect of creating additional stress.