Have you considered what effect constant access to work emails could be having on employee wellbeing in your organisation? In this post I’ll share with you some common signs of email addiction, the problems it can cause and some measures you can take as an employer to minimise the negative effects.
It’s not considered abnormal these days to have access to your work emails on your smart phone. But research shows that this trend could be contributing towards stress, anxiety and increased risk of burnout and even developing certain types of OCD.
Email addiction is one of a myriad of factors which could be affecting the wellbeing of your employees. If you’d like to learn more about employee wellbeing and put together a watertight employee wellbeing strategy, you can download my free eBook ‘A practical guide to employee wellbeing’.
Research by the University of Loughborough found that email overload is suffered by 87% of employees, with 53% of them saying they cannot cope with the volume of email they have to deal with. Dr Emma Russell of Kingston University has identified ‘7 deadly sins’ that can exacerbate the negative effects. They are:
- Ping pong - constant emails back and forth creating long chains
- Emailing out of hours
- Emailing while in the company of other people
- Ignoring emails completely
- Requesting read receipts
- Responding immediately to an email alert
- Automated replies.
So what distinguishes normal use from addiction (or overuse)? Have you ever found yourself or noticed other people checking emails in any of these situations:
- While driving
- Whilst on holiday
- In the evening
- At the weekends
- Before work
- In the bathroom
- While watching TV
- In bed
- Out having dinner with friends
These are actions that a decade ago most of us would probably have been horrified at the thought of, but now wouldn’t be considered as anything out of the ordinary. But although these behaviours are quite normal, it doesn’t mean they are harmless. When these behaviours become habits they can actually start to impact on the quality of our life leading to anxiety and stress, constant distractedness, lack of energy, losing large chunks of time at the expense of other more important activities, negatively affecting relationships, not being present in the moment and increased risk of burnout.
How can you help your employees?
If constantly checking and immediately responding to emails has become the cultural norm in your organisation it is worth exploring how it may be impacting on wellbeing levels, productivity and in other hidden ways.
As an employer, rather than taking the default position that it is the employee’s personal choice and that it is not expected of them by the company, consider what the employee’s perception may be of what is expected of them. If leaders and managers send emails or respond to emails out of hours, then it is likely that other employees feel pressured to respond, or at the minimum mimic this behavior because they view it as normal.
Here are a some ways which you can turn the situation around to help your employees to be happier, more productive and to have a healthier relationship with work emails:
- Raise awareness –Provide information and guidelines about stress and anxiety and how it can be caused by constant checking of emails (which is actually an addiction rather than a productive behaviour).
- Counter perceived expectations – communicate clearly to your workforce that there is no expectation of them to check or respond to emails outside of their normal working hours. Make sure that your actions are congruent with your message. It can seem disingenuous if what you say and what you do don’t align. In other words, don’t tell employees that it is not expected of them, then continue to check and respond to your own emails out of hours!
- Provide training – If employees are struggling to fit all of their work into normal working hours then this could be a symptom of a wider problem. Training in time management, communication or email management strategies could be the best place to start.
- Review company policies– Take a look at your existing policies and charters. If you make any promises to take care of your employees and protect their wellbeing, then you could be falling short of this promise by not intervening in unhealthy email habits.
- Offer non- smart phones as work mobiles – Give employees the opportunity to trade in their work smart phones for dial- only phones. Proper use of autoresponders can be much more effective than being in a constant state of vigilance.
Email addiction or overuse is one of many factors which could be impacting negatively on the wellbeing of you employees. If you’ve found this article useful and would like to learn more you can download the free eBook ‘A practical guide to employee wellbeing’.
Saffron Grant specialises in improving business performance by improving employee wellbeing. She provides resilience training, executive coaching and can help you to create a watertight Employee Wellbeing Strategy for your organisation.
Saffron is the author of ‘A Practical Guide to Employee Wellbeing - How to create your strategy’ which can be downloaded for free here.