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Why our ways of coping with email aren't working

Many of those strategies that we thought were serving us well in dealing with emails at work can actually have negative consequences for our well-being or efficiency, suggests new research

That is the conclusion of recent research by Dr Emma Russell from Kingston Business School. Dr Russell conducted in-depth interviews with 28 email users and then compiled a list of 88 strategies. She found that many strategies have both positive and negative repercussions for users, depending on what goals are being sought.

For example ‘having email alerts switched on and responding to email on alert’ can have positive benefits if we want to show concern to others – ie their email partner.  However, it may have negative repercussions in terms of feeling in control, or maintaining a sense of positive well-being.

The most maligned reported strategies were for ‘completely ignoring an email message’, ‘engaging in email-ping-pong’, ‘responding to email out-of-hours in the normal way’, ‘asking for read receipts’, ‘using automated rules, codes and labels to organise email’ and ‘absent-presence’ (dealing with email when in company).

Dr Russell says: “This research reminds us that even though we think are using adaptive and functional strategies for dealing with our email at work, many of these strategies can be detrimental to other goals and the people that we work with.”


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