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Stressed out? Turn off email

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If you're stressed out at work, a new study suggests turning off email to not only calm your nerves but help you feel more productive and focused.

A study released last week by the University of California, Irvine, found that people who do not read their email or check their inbox on a regular basis at work had lower stress levels.

"The fact that we found that people are less stressed when they don't have email shows that there are ways to change the way we use email in the work setting," said Gloria Mark, an informatics professor who has been studying the effects of email in the workplace since 2004, to the New York Times. "We suggest doing what we call batching emails, where organizations send emails once or twice a day, rather than continually, so employees know not to check their email every 10 minutes."

The study found that people who use email on a regular basis "switched windows an average of 37 times per hour. Those without changed screens half as often -- about 18 times in an hour."

Marks also suggested taking email "vacations" -- taking a few days off from checking your inbox -- to soothe stress and help with focus. Yet the downside to logging off for long bouts of time is that participants said they felt "isolated."

Prior research on emails shows that it's more habit-forming than you might even think, with one study finding that study participants claimed to check their email, on average, once an hour, but in reality checked email every five minutes.

-- From Free Press news services

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 14, 2012 D1

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