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Too many emails damaging workplace productivity, says expert

One of the great advantages about email is also one of its greatest weaknesses. Emails don't usually demand an immediate answer, but can be dealt with at a convenient time.

The problem is that, for many, the most convenient time is after work hours - and according to a leading academic and expert in management issues this could be affecting the productivity and wellbeing of the UK workforce.

Sir Cary Cooper of Lancaster University Management School told the BBC that the UK has developed an unhealthy 'macho culture' in which workers present themselves as available by email at all hours, a culture that has caused stress and depression, and damaged efficiency.

He said that workers now had a compulsion to check their emails constantly, whether at night, during weekends or on holiday, and that it was 'not good for the health of our country'.

Stopping the epidemic

Pointing to the UK's comparatively poor productivity figures, he urged employers to act to stop what he called an 'epidemic'.

Internal emails being sent between colleagues in the same building, he suggested, should be replaced with face-to-face meetings and phone calls.

Warnings could be flashed if workers were detected using work email during leisure time, he added.

'Every organisation has to come to a conclusion as to what is a good way to be operating, and the best way to do that is by asking the employees themselves how do we stop this epidemic of us being linked all the time to our emails,' he said to the BBC.

A study last year found that checking email less frequently helped to reduce psychological stress. Being ever vigilant of the inbox did not make workers more productive - just more stressed.

Acas publications and services

Acas has advice on Dealing with stress in the workplace, which details the causes of stress and how you can combat them. There's also advice on Social media and managing performance, and how employers can help their workforce deal with the distractions of modern technology.

Acas experts can visit your organisation and help you identify what might be causing stress in your workplace, as well as how to manage it. See Stress: how Acas can help for details.

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