Would You Be More Productive Without Email at Work?

5 years ago

Last week's derecho knocked out power to a large chunk of the East Coast, taking with it access to email.  While my personal study was hardly conducted in a scientific manner such as the one from University of California, Irvine in conjunction with the US Army, my findings didn't mirror theirs at all.  While researchers found that people who didn't have access to email during the work day were more productive and less stressed, I found that it didn't matter if there were still plenty of tasks I could complete for work sans email.  I was less productive, jittery, and distracted; constantly checking if email was back and wondering what I was missing.

So which is it?  Is turning off email a good thing for everyone, or are there people out there who work better knowing they have access to this communication tool?

The Wall Street Journal reported that it wasn't just a person's perception that was charted; subjects were attached to heart monitoring devices that looked at their stress levels.

Those subjects removed from email for five days had heart rates indicating a more relaxed state. By contrast, those who read email had heart rates that were in a “high alert” state.

Again, I wondered if relaxed was really a good thing when we're talking about the workplace (and in this case, the US Army).  Don't we want our employees to be on high alert when they're on the clock and reaching a more restful heart rate when they're not on the job?  When I'm on high alert, I'm paying attention to the fine details.  It's great to go all Matthew McConaughey with your heart rate when you're at home, but when you're working, don't we all want to be a little more Daniel Day Lewis?

While it can be helpful to close down email for small chunks of time, focusing completely on a single task, I can't say that I would find it productive to not have access to it for an entire day... every day. 

What do you think?

Photo Credit: Email in the Workplace via Shutterstock.

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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