Many people could not imagine life without e-mail, but its benefits may be outweighed by the stress it is causing staff. A study has shown that workers need not feel pressured by their overflowing inboxes

A study carried out by Glasgow and Paisley universities has found that constantly checking the inbox makes people tired, pressured and less productive.

Karen Renaud at Glasgow University's computing science department says workers should check their messages just a few times a day to reduce stress levels. She says that although e-mail is an 'amazing tool', it has got out of hand.

'The problem is that when you go back to what you are doing, you've lost your chain of thought and, of course, you are less productive,' Karen says. 'People's brains get tired from breaking off from something every few minutes to check e-mails.' The report, which she carried out with psychologist Judith Ramsay and statistician Mario Hair, both from Paisley University, recommends dedicated e-mail reading time.

It says that women in particular tend to feel more pressure to respond than men and states: 'Many individuals seem to feel pressured by e-mail and feel this pressure negatively as stress.'

The study found that people working on a computer looked at their e-mails as many as 30 or 40 times an hour and that 34 per cent of workers felt stressed by the number of messages and needed to respond quickly. Just 38 per cent were classed as relaxed as they did not reply until a day or even a week later.

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