Emails come thick and fast

If emails are adding to work intensification and following you into your leisure time, they may be contributing to stress and hindering your capacity to focus.

Alexander Kjerulf’s Happy at Work blog recently reported on a study conducted at the University of California that directly measured stress using wearable heart rate monitors.

While it was a small study, it showed that heart rate variability was lower without email. Despite the obvious benefits of email communication, the study supported the view that emails are a source of stress and distraction.

Kjerulf further reported that major corporate industries are establishing new policies to address work related stress and improve work life balance.

Volkswagen has a new agreement that stops routing emails 30 minutes after the end of employee shifts and then starts again 30 minutes before.

At Daimler emails are not delivered during holiday periods. To avoid an overflowing inbox upon return, staff can advise senders that they are out of the office and their email will be deleted.

Schools are not part of the corporate world, but the Union is getting increasing reports that emails and other forms of technology are adding to workloads and disrupting evenings, weekends and holidays.

Students and sometimes parents have direct email access to teachers, particularly in a growing number of secondary schools. Students submit assignments online and seek advice and support from teachers sometimes outside of school hours. Students also interact with teachers by emails and texts when participating in sport and other co-curricular activities. Online access to teachers can lead to unreasonable workload demands. In some schools students and parents expect teachers to quickly respond to student queries including on evenings and weekends.

Email exchanges can also lead to the risk of child protection allegations as emails and texts lend themselves to casual interaction. The Union increasingly handles matters involving allegations of breaches in professional boundaries.

What can you do?

School based ‘appropriate use’ email policies can greatly assist in the management of communication issues. These should include operational issues covering purpose, appropriate use and monitoring. School policies need to also include guidelines for appropriate out of class communication between students and teachers, expected response times to emails and limitations around email exchanges. Such policies also need to be circulated to students and parents and supported and enforced.

If your school has developed effective ‘appropriate use’ email practices and policies, please let us know. If emails are running out of control at your school, contact your IEU organiser to discuss a strategy for developing best practice around email communication at your workplace.

Gloria Taylor
Deputy Secretary