The broader issue the article below raises is whether this type of worker stress is limited to e-mail? As XML feeds, instant messaging, blogs, social networking, presence-enabled applications and other social tools invade the workplace - how fragmented and disjointed will workers feel as they triage a growing number of communication channels and collaboration spaces all demanding their attention.
I would not jump to any melodramatic conclusion - some people adapt well and actually thrive within event-driven environments. Other workers will struggle until they learn new ways to cope and leverage tools that help filter, sort and prioritize work activities and manage interruptions. Technology to fix the problems that technology causes always lags a bit. The trend, to some extent, is unavoidable - creating a market opportunity for software vendors, consultants and perhaps even therapists I imagine...
More than a third said they thought they checked their inbox every 15 minutes and 64 per cent said they looked more than once an hour. When researchers fitted monitors to their computers, workers were found to be viewing e-mails up to 40 times an hour. About 33 per cent said they felt stressed by the volume of e-mails and the need to reply quickly. A further 28 per cent said they felt “driven” when they checked messages because of the pressure to respond. Just 38 per cent of workers were relaxed enough to wait a day or longer before replying.
... data from AOL and Opinion Research Corporation shows that Americans are increasingly "addicted" to checking their e-mail, with 59 percent of portable device users checking every single time an e-mail comes in and 83 percent of survey respondents checking e-mail every day on vacation.
All of this e-mail checking is not only stressing us out, it's cutting down on our productivity. Humans aren't quite as adept at multitasking as we'd like to think we are, and it takes us a long time to refocus; Microsoft recently said that workers took an average of 15 minutes to get back to what they were working on after being interrupted by a phone call, e-mail, or IM. Dr. Renaud agrees. "The problem is that when you go back to what you were doing, you've lost your chain of thought and, of course, you are less productive," she said. "People's brains get tired from breaking off from something every few minutes to check emails. The more distracted you are by distractions, including email, then you are going to be more tired and less productive."