Are emails bad for your health?


Feeling stressed out? Keep imagining that your phone is vibrating when no message has actually arrived? If Dr. Richard Balding of the University of Worcester in the UK is to be believed, it could be because of your smartphone. While smartphones issued or subsidized by employers are meant to help workers manage their workload by giving them access to emails when they’re out of the office, according to research carried out by Dr. Balding’s team, employees become so obsessive about checking their accounts that they actually become more stressed as a result.

The survey found that that stress was directly linked to the number of times people checked their phones on average, and that the people with the highest levels of stress were being troubled by “phantom” vibrations when no message had actually been received.

This caused TM Forum’s Insider blog to wonder, tongue-in-cheek, how long it will be “before someone suggests that network operators take some responsibility and maybe issue health warnings on the back of SIM cards, on bills and via SMS messages? Well, maybe not the SMS messages as these will only add to the stress levels, presumably.”

Actually, some employers are taking this issue seriously. At the end of last year, Volkswagen announced that it has agreed to stop its Blackberry servers sending emails to some of its employees when they are off-shift. As reported by the BBC, Volkswagen’s servers stop routing emails 30 minutes after the end of employees’ shifts, and then start again 30 minutes before they return to work. The staff can still use their devices to make calls and the rule does not apply to senior management.

With more mobile phones in the world than there are toothbrushes, it’s clear that there’s no going back on connectivity. What is needed is a sense of proportion – not every email or text has to be answered immediately. I’d like to dedicate that to the person who was sitting in the row in front of mine in the cinema last week who kept texting throughout the movie and distracting me with a constant “on-and-off” lit screen – it stressed me out!


  1. Rupali Rokade
    Posted February 9, 2012 at 12:21 am | Permalink

    Very nice Article. Thanks a lot for sharing this.

  2. Beena
    Posted February 11, 2012 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    This is perhaps one of the downside of the highly connected world that we live in. Too much of an information overload and as our mind grapples with it, some of us also get obsessed with staying on top of it! Which leads to disturbance in work life balance. This is a health risk and I applaud all companies that are careful to note this trend and take measures to ensure good health and work life balance for their employees while they also achieve high productivity.

    Atos also made an announcement at the end of 2011 about their intentions to ban internal emails in next couple of years. Another drastic solution but surely pointing to the need of our times.

    Nice post on this topic Jeff! Thanks.

  3. Vijayana
    Posted February 12, 2012 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

    Nice one. Awesome

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