Even Your Boss Thinks Email Is a Drag

Most office jobs today come with more than their share of information overload. You're constantly available, constantly connected, and constantly expected to jump for the company's needs. Most workers have probably wished they could take some time off from that. For managers, that need is more pressing than most.

Researchers at Michigan State University have just published a study on the effects of email overload on a supervisor's ability to manage effectively. A lot of it comes down to our ability to recover from interruptions, which is practically nonexistent. Employees lose an hour and a half every day getting back on track, and when you're in charge of other people, you slack off big time on actually being a boss.

When managers fall behind on their own tasks, the MSU team found that rather than attending to their direct reports, they make up for lost time with busywork — easily completed items that make them feel like at least something got done that day. We already know that constant availability and relentless interruptions have implications for our physical, relational, and mental health. According to this study, it's not even good for business; employee morale and performance tends to suffer under these circumstances.

"The moral of the story is that managers need to set aside specific times to check email," said lead author Russell Johnson in a press release. "This puts the manager in control, rather than reacting whenever a new message appears in the inbox, which wrestles control away from the manager." Similar studies on group projects and smartphone use have come to much the same conclusion. No matter what your role, it might be worth your while to take charge of your attention again.