Leave work at work – turn off your email notification.

(Photo by Shutterstock/afanasev ivan)

When Roberta Flack sang Killing Me Softly in 1973, she would have had no idea that 46 years later, a paper would be written applying the lyrics to email as a cause of work-related stress.  This paper looks at the role of email as an insidious stressor that not only affects the employee directly in increased anxiety; decreased relationship satisfaction and other detrimental effects on health, but also that it negatively affects the partner according to the authors.

The paper has been recently published in the Academy of Management Best Paper Proceedings and shows that personal relationships and home life suffer for those tied to their work emails round-the-clock.  It is the first study to test the relationship between organizational expectations to monitor work-related electronic communication during non-work hours and the health and relationship satisfaction of employees and their significant others. To read more about the “Killing Me Softly email review, click here

Most people have a love/hate relationship with their inbox.  If you find yourself checking your email in the evenings and on the weekends, interrupting your family time and keeping work-related stress alive in your mind, you may be suffering from email overload – putting your wellbeing and family relationships second to other people’s timeframes.


  • For greater efficiency at work, try turning off your email and only looking at it twice or three times a day for a set period of time.
  • Work out when you are most efficient and avoid checking your emails during those periods.
  • If you need to have a quick word with a colleague, give them a ring instead or get up and walk over to their desk – communicating face-to-face greatly improves stress levels and your relationships with your colleagues.

From 1 January 2017, a new law was enacted in France, establishing workers ‘right to disconnect’ – organizations with more than 50 employees are now required to establish hours when staff should not send or receive emails.  These restrictions are beneficial to both employers and employees, as they contribute to making workers more relaxed and effective. Studies such as the Killing Me Softly one continually point out that workplace email is a source of stress and can cost between 5 and 8% of an organisation’s total costs.  This law follows on from other major European corporations already attempting to reduce burnout and overwork in their employees: in 2012 Volkswagen blocked all emails to employees’ Blackberries after-hours and Daimler delete all emails received by employees on leave.  In 2014, the German government enacted a ban prohibiting managers from calling or emailing staff after work hours, except in an emergency. Improvements to email software now make this kind of monitoring a reality for organizations.  More and more are restricting email with greater benefits both to their employees and to the business

If you are struggling to delete old emails take a leaf from decluttering expert Marie Kondo and delete emails that are unlikely to ever be referred to again and that “don’t spark joy”.  You will never know the satisfaction of a clear inbox if you don’t do it now.

Your email inbox is your daily to-do list created by everyone else but you.