FRIDAY, May 11 (HealthDay News) -- Email vacations while on the job could benefit people's health, reducing stress levels and contributing to better focus, a new study suggests.
Researchers from the University of California, Irvine, and the U.S. Army found that a group of workers who were cut off from office email use for five days experienced more natural, variable heart rates and switched between computer windows only half as much.
Study co-author Gloria Mark, a professor of informatics at the university, said the findings could help boost productivity in offices that choose to implement these email vacations, either by controlling email login times, batching messages or through other strategies.
"We were surprised by the results, because they didn't have to turn out this way," Mark said. "It's possible that people might have been even more stressed not to have email, to feel like they were missing out on something, so we didn't expect that people would become significantly less stressed."
Mark and her colleagues presented the study this week at a meeting of the Association for Computing Machinery, in Austin, Texas. Research presented at scientific conferences is considered preliminary and has not been peer-reviewed.
Thirteen civilian employees at the Army's Natick Soldier Systems Center, near Boston, took part in a three-day baseline data-collection phase, including interviews about their existing multitasking and email usage, and a five-day no-email period. All participants, who were split between men and women, were information workers whose job titles included chemical engineer, psychologist, materials scientist, biologist, food technologist and research administrator.
Co-workers who continued reading emails switched screens twice as often -- an average of 37 times per hour compared with 18 for "vacationers" -- and were in a steady "high-alert" stat
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