Researchers from the United Kingdom found push notifications from smartphone email apps have become "toxic source of stress." The technology has created an unwritten work etiquette in a culture wherein people are now expected to be readily available to respond to work emails. The resulting habits have become toxic to a person's emotional well-being.

The "push notification" feature sends an alert to the user of a newly received email even when they are not logged onto their Mail app. This allows a person to constantly check and immediately respond to work emails, which in turn increases feeling of anxiety and tension. Health experts recommend turning off the push notification feature to get rid of the unnecessary anxiety.

"In other words, use email when you intend to, not just because it's always running in the background," the authors wrote.

The Stressful Survey

A study conducted by Future Work Centre (FWC) likened emails to "double-edged swords." An email is, definitely, an effective communication tool. However, it can also be a huge source of stress. FWC is a team that conducts psychological studies on people's workplace experiences.

The survey covered nearly 2,000 working people across various occupations and industries in the United Kingdom. The team discovered that people are most stressed when they leave unread emails lying all day and when they check their emails late at night or early in the morning.

The research team found a strong link between "perceived" email stress and the widespread use of the push notification feature. This creates a vicious cycle wherein email-related pressure was linked to work stress affecting life at home and compromised home life affecting a person's workplace performance.

"The people who reported it being most useful to them also reported the highest levels of email pressure," said lead study author Dr Richard MacKinnon who highlighted how useful and stressful the push notification feature can be.

MacKinnon stressed that the combination of unwritten workplace etiquette, emotional reactions to emails and newly developed smartphone habits all boil down into a "toxic source of stress" that affects both a person's well-being and productivity.

The survey has showed email pressure ranked highest among the younger demographic but the level of email pressure lowers with age. People who work in media, the Internet, marketing, information technology and public relations are the ones mostly affected by email pressure. The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the British Psychological Society's Division of Occupational Psychology in Nottingham.

More than 30 percent of people who work in these industries receive more than 50 emails daily. In addition, more than 65 percent of these people use the push notification feature to update them of upcoming emails 24/7.

The report also said an average adult checks and responds to email more than an hour daily and about 196.3 billion emails were sent globally in 2014 alone.

Photo: Mirøslav Hristøff | Flickr

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