Email and other types of digital communication are inescapable parts of the modern work world. These can be excellent tools for certain types of interactions. They can also be major sources of stress if they aren’t managed appropriately. There are steps you can take to make sure that you aren’t overwhelmed by your own electronic tools, and you can also help your team manage their own stress.
It’s easy to fall into the following trap: You check your email from home before driving into the office. You check and respond to some text messages on the way to work. You have a notification program on your computer so that you know each time you receive an email. You may not pause to check every time, but you feel compelled to stop what you’re doing and look at your emails and respond regularly. You probably do the same thing with texts. If you have internet access at home, it’s tempting to check your email when you get home, just to make sure no crises have broken out. If there’s anything new in your inbox, you’ll probably go ahead and reply to save time in the morning. During this time, you probably check any number of personal emails and text messages.
This probably sounds pretty normal, right? You, your colleagues, and your employees all probably do the same thing. In fact, it may be expected at your company. You’ve probably been conditioned to assume this is just the way things are done. In fact, this type of behavior is problematic for a number of reasons. It cuts back on your productivity, it disturbs other people’s work patterns, it creates longer working hours and it leads to a great deal of stress.
One of the first things you can do is cut down on the amount of digital documents you receive. There’s nothing more disheartening than opening your inbox and seeing 400 unread emails. The good news is that you can probably significantly reduce the amount of mail you’re receiving. What are some strategies you can use?
- Unsubscribe to newsletters you don’t read. Often, you are automatically signed up for these when you make a purchase, but rarely read them.
- Remove yourself from updates from teams or projects that you are no longer part of. These lists often aren’t updated on a timely basis.
- Unsubscribe from industry listservs, newsletters and magazines unless they directly affect your work.
- Remove your email address from advertisements from vendors and local businesses.
- Unsubscribe from updates on products you no longer have and aren’t likely to repurchase.
- If you’ve changed jobs, make sure all your emails are up to date with your current job.
- Don’t subscribe to advertisements or lists through text messages either.
To manage your stress, you need to compartmentalize the time you spend on email and other types of digital communications. Don’t spend the entire day checking your email. Instead, carve out particular times of the day to deal with emails and texts. For example, check them first thing in the morning, near noon and towards the end of the day. Don’t interrupt what you’re doing on a constant basis or you’ll never get anything done. Some researchers have found that it can take as long as 15 to 20 minutes for most office employees to regroup after interruptions and refocus on work.
As a leader, it’s your job is to set an example for the rest of the team. There are many things you can do to make things worse for employees or to help them create good habits. When you are hyper-responsive to email, you show your team members that you expect the same behavior from them. If you send or respond to messages at night or early in the morning, again, you show what type of response you expect from workers. You’ll not only be causing digital stress for yourself, you’ll be creating it for your employees.