Need a Break From Work? Take an Email Vacation!

Email vacation
Jessica Miller-Merrell, blogging4jobs

How many times have you checked your email today? Is your email always up and ready to be checked every time you get a pop-up notification? Do you have notifications set up on your smart devices to make sure you never miss an email? Is email proving to be a distraction that's keeping you from all your other HR duties? If you’re anything like me, this sounds all too familiar. Email has begun to dictate our lives whether it is for discount codes or the newest business opportunity.

According to a study conducted by the University of California at Irvine, being cut off from emails throughout the day significantly reduces stress and allows employees to focus far better. The study went one step further and attached heart rate monitors to users and detected how often they switched windows. People who read email changed screens twice as often and were in a steady “high alert” state, with elevated heart rates. Those removed from email for five days experienced more natural heart rates.

Anyone who works in human resources or in a highly email-dominant job understands that being away from their email for more than 10 minutes creates high anxiety. It’s almost like we are waiting for that next big email to come and are on the ready to respond within minutes of receiving. Being prompt in email response is an exceptional quality, but at what costs? Reduced productivity? More stress? Increased Anxiety? It’s time we take a vacation from our email and here are a few simple steps on how to take that ever-deserving break.

Let Your Email Manage Itself

Email management is most effective when you setup and use filters. Gmail, Outlook, Apple Mail, and other programs include certain features that allow users to divert spam or unwanted mail to the trash without cluttering your inbox. Services like unroll.me combine all these unwanted emails into a daily digest just in case you have some free time to see if there is anything worthy of reading.

Rid Yourself of On-Demand Service 

It’s tempting to respond to an email as soon as a notification pops up, but doing this decreases productivity. In 2012 the average amount of legitimate emails received per day was 62. If you spent 3-5 minutes reading and responding per email, you would have spent over four hours of your workday responding. That’s over 50% of your day controlling emails. If you're like most HR professionals, you've got too much important work to do to spend so much time in email. Block a designated hour or two to respond to emails and leave it at that. If you don’t get to all of them in one day, start again the next day. Responding with on-demand service kills productivity and reduces time spent on more important projects.

The Two-Minute Rule

This rule made popular by David Allen says that if an email is going to take longer than 2 minutes to respond to, schedule time on your calendar. This might seem redundant, but in the long run you’ll save time on productivity by scheduling time, just like you would a phone call. Most email programs allow you to highlight, flag, or star messages that need a response, so utilize these features whenever you can.

The fact is, you probably received 3-5 emails while reading this article. Take a chance to implement these new changes and increase the productivity in your HR role starting today! What are some tips you've used in your workday to help manage your emails?

Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR is a workplace and technology strategist specializing in social media. She’s an author who writes at Blogging4Jobs. You can follow her on Twitter @blogging4jobs.

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