Email is integral to the way that many of us work. Yet there is no universally accepted standard for its use, which leaves many of us struggling to find strategies that will help us work effectively without also overstressing or causing email fatigue.
This article, originally published in The Conversation explores how people feel about email and gives hints and tips on how to manage the ever-increasing number of emails we received while at work.
There is no shortage of self-help books and time management gurus who argue that email zen is possible. But with so much research being conducted in different fields there is a risk that populist volumes and consultants simply cherry-pick the data and findings to fit their point of view – that is, if their recommendations are even evidence-based at all.
We were commissioned by UK workplace experts ACAS to produce a systematic literature review across the fields of psychology, human-computer interaction and management of the strategies people use to try and deal with the torrent of work email. This approach examines published data in a rigorous way, and after excluding many papers that didn’t fit our sifting criteria, we settled on assessing 42 papers.
From these, we identified a number of themes relating to how email is used today, which were then matched against markers of productivity and well-being. Finally, these themes were sense-checked in a qualitative study with 12 representative participants.
What did we find? It became apparent that there is no one-size-fits-all set of strategies that improve both people’s productivity and well-being across job roles and industries. For example, a strategy such as catching up with email outside of work hours might help people feel more in control of their work, but it does not tangibly reduce work overload – and can create conflict in families where work is brought home.
But we were able to identify a number of strategies that research indicates are generally beneficial, and these can be used to dispel many of the popular myths about work email and how we “should” be using it. Here are the top five work email myths – busted by science.Continue reading