Email – The Silent Killer?

Estimates suggest that there are around 150 million emails sent every 60 seconds. That’s over 90 billion every hour, and more than 200 billion every day. That’s an incomprehensible amount of information, and it’s no wonder that millions of inboxes are full-to-bursting with messages.

We have all, at one time or another, experienced the irritation of trying to locate an email we received in the past. Whether it’s a week ago or a month ago, it’s a painstaking task that has become so engrained in our working lives that we accept it as unavoidable – it’s simply a price we have to pay for the easy, instant communication methods we use.

Everyone understands that minutes spent searching through cluttered inboxes are minutes wasted, but is there anything else, apart from irritation, that’s happening when we’re faced with email overload?

Maybe there is. A study conducted by researchers at Loughborough University set out to investigate the physical effects email has on us. They tracked the blood pressure, heart rate and Cortisol (stress hormone) levels of 30 government employees throughout their daily work activities, while the subjects themselves kept a diary.

Their findings were remarkable. They showed that while an email was no more stressful than a phone call, it was the volume of emails received over the course of a workday that made it by far the most stressful communication method for workers. Elevated heart rate, increased blood pressure and increased Cortisol levels were all exhibited by the subjects, which, over time, can lead to various serious long-term illnesses. It’s no great leap to assume that millions of people are in the same boat – and this was just one study, the long-term effects of email are still yet to be observed.

Of course, the effects of email on an individual will vary depending on the content of the message itself, and the task taking place when the email arrives. The study mentioned that emails containing praise were, unsurprisingly, not stressful to the recipient. Emails that interrupted a task, or were not relevant to the recipient, however, were noted to be the most stressful.

So what do we do? Do we delete our email clients? Correspond entirely by carrier pigeon? Perhaps, but maybe an easier solution would be to deal with email more effectively.

Prior to working at Oasys, like most people I used bog-standard Microsoft Outlook for everything related to email. It was great, for the most part, until my mailbox reached the maximum size and I was faced with the tedious task of scanning through thousands of emails and deleting what I thought I wouldn’t need anymore. Or when I needed to reference an email that I’d received months ago, or, even worse, when I needed to reference an email sent to a colleague who had since left the business. While great for sending and receiving, when it comes to organising, storing, sharing and managing emails, Outlook leaves a lot to be desired.

Since joining Oasys and using Mail Manager, problems like this really are a thing of the past. I can view emails categorised by topic, project or any number of variables from when Oasys first began using Mail Manager all those years ago. The entire email thread is there, including what every recipient said, when they said it, along with all the attachments. Everything is stored in one central location, not stuck in individual mailboxes, meaning if someone leaves, valuable communication data isn’t lost.

By far the most useful feature for me is the search tool. I always found Outlook’s search results to be too broad to be meaningful, and even after searching I would need to wade through dozens of results to find the correct one. This really isn’t the case with Mail Manager, which smartly filters out anything I haven’t specifically asked it to find. All in all, it makes for a much faster, easier experience, and as we know from the Loughborough study, this can only be a good thing.

You can’t stop an email popup derailing your thoughts at a crucial point in a document, and you can’t stem the flow of messages into your inbox, but you can take back control of your email. You can, in essence, make your working life easier.

Installing Mail Manager is a small price to pay for complete peace of mind.


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Article written by Oasys, Arup’s in-house software division, and originally published on their blog.

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