Email stress extends beyond the workplace
Email communication is now common in all aspects of work life. One downside to this however is email stress caused by incivility, which involves rude messages, non-urgent messages marked as high priority or time-sensitive messages sent without notice. They can cause a lot of stress.
Previous studies show that email stress affects employees at the workplace on a daily basis. Employees tend to be under a lot of strain at the end of a workday due to email incivility and it manifests in different ways such as physical symptoms like headaches to mental and emotional issues such as depression.
When employees stress over their work on the weekend, email incivility exacerbates the effect of this stress which they then transmit to their partners.
Now a new study shows that the rudeness in emails (through tone, content or timing of the message) extends beyond the employee and filters into their personal lives. It can even affect their partners, too.
Researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University collected online survey data from 167 dual-earner couples at multiple times during a typical workweek — before leaving work for the weekend, the following Monday morning and at the end of the next new week. The researchers found that when employees experience more frequent incivility via work email during the week, they tend to withdraw from work the following week.
Furthermore, the employees transmit their stress of receiving uncivil emails to their domestic partner on the weekend and as a result, the partner also withdraws from their work the following week.
When employees stress over their work on the weekend, email incivility exacerbates the effect of this stress which they then transmit to their partners. Interestingly, when the partners ruminated over their stressful work week over the weekend, the transmitted stress aggravates their stress too.
The nuances of communication can be lost in an email. Face-to-face communication, such as body language and social cues, are important ways understand the context of a message. As a result, employees can be unaware of the intention of a message and may stress over the email as a result.
Email communication cannot be avoided in the workplace, but the scientists recommend that managers need to recognise the role of email incivility and find ways to combat poor email etiquette.
Source: Journal of Organizational Behavior
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