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Monday, 20 May, 2002, 12:32 GMT 13:32 UK
Parenting suffers in e-mail overload
Woman looking at computer
E-mail overload is cited as a top cause of stress
If you are struggling to cope with a bulging inbox packed with office e-mails, then you are not alone.

Employees in the UK spend more time wading through their messages than playing with their children, according to a government study.

The report by the Department of Trade and Industry found that workers take an average of 49 minutes a day to sort out their inboxes.

By comparison, working parents play with their children for just 25 minutes a day.

Messaging stress

Keeping up with office e-mails can not only be a logistical nightmare, it is also seen as one of the worst causes of stress in the workplace.

Everybody can benefit from a better work-life balance

DTI spokesman
And the messages also contribute to what are thought to be the top two causes of stress at work: constant interruptions and deadline pressures.

According to the DTI, sick days as a result of stress cost business 7.11m a week.

Click here to tell us how you cope with a bursting inbox

With many employees suffering from e-mail overload, some companies are now sending executives on courses to teach them how to communicate more effectively through e-mail without adding to the already bursting inboxes of their staff.

Short lunches

The DTI study confirms that Britons are among the hardest workers in Europe.

It found that the average employee skips 24 minutes of their lunch break every day and only takes the equivalent of approximately two weeks holiday per year.

The DTI research was released to mark the relaunch of its work-life balance website, which offers advice on how to juggle the competing demands of job and home.

A DTI spokesman said: "Everybody can benefit from a better work-life balance.

"More flexible working boosts staff morale, improves employees' commitment to their work, and benefits business through higher productivity."

Have your say
Do you spend more time on office e-mails than with your children? How do you cope with a bulging inbox? Tell us what you think.

Simple answer, I don't manage to deal with it! I even have clients overseas who are e-mailing me whilst I am asleep. So when I come in I already have a full inbox. I organise mine by putting my e-mails in the alphabetical order of the senders. By the time I am down to reading S you can bet I will have several new e-mails which have shuffled in above this. It's like painting the Golden Gate bridge by the time you're finished you have to start again. Irritating thing is, most of them are either advertising, junk mail or work queries which don't even apply to me.
Bex, UK

E-mail's only stressful if you read it. I work on many projects at once. Each e-mail that is project-related has the project code in the header. I have a folder for each job number that I'm working on, as well as folders for general admin, personal, humour etc. When I'm very busy, e-mails just get dragged unread to the appropriate folder. Then at some point during the day I will make time to read all e-mails related to each subject. This method also ensures that I'm only thinking about the one job at a time. I would recommend this approach to anyone who is stressed out by e-mail, although this does require your company to have e-mail protocol which includes useful subject headers.
Alison A, UK

I cope by deleting any e-mail that I have finished with or that has no relevance. That said, the sooner society makes e-mail advertising (spam) illegal, the better. Once my inbox gets over 50 e-mails, I make time to narrow it down. Not having too many e-mails in there makes you feel less stressed. Move e-mails you need to keep into another folder and keep your inbox tidy. Works for me.
Boomer, UK

By using a facility like Outlook to manage your e-mail you can make specific folders and have all items that you are a cc party auto deliver to a separate folder, same with all your mates stuff, which you can read at your leisure. This will leave just items work orientated and sent directly to you to deal with.
Chris, Suffolk

Delete the lot and go to the pub.
Fred Ashley, UK

I basically scan through the sender and subject information, if I don't recognise either then I delete it without thinking. I just don't have the time to read all the spam offering me low rate mortgages or Viagra online!
Seth Black, UK

Juggling home and work commitments can be trying at the best of times but I all too often only see my children first thing in the morning as they are in bed by the time I get home. Fortunately my husband and I have good nursery and after-school facilities available to us. It is a sad indictment of modern living that children are often only able to see their children for little more than an hour a day.
Sian, UK

What did we do before e-mails, SMS messages, faxes and mobiles? I remember - life was a lot darn easier and less hetic.
David LJ, Isle of Man UK

I receive approximately two to three hundred e-mails a day. I cannot expect to read every one I receive, so I will read what I can when I have the time to do so, the rest I will never read. Any urgent matter should be dealt with in the traditional method - the telephone! Junk and unwanted e-mails are a pain, but you should configure your e-mail application to automatically remove these.
James Sanders, UK

Whenever I am sent an e-mail with a question from a colleague who works in the same office, I always give them the courtesy of a reply in person. I find that we not only build up a better rapport but it saves the hassle of three to four follow-up e-mails to 'clarify the point'. It also helps with the exercise regime.
Rob, UK

Smart companies have e-mail etiquette! This reduces the number of e-mails from colleagues who misguidedly feel you are interested in their updates, supports use of meaningful subject headers and teaches everyone how to communicate concisely! Lobby your IT team today
Max, N Ireland

I only read e-mail twice a day. Once at the start of the day, once at the end. Anything else more urgent can be dealt with in person or by phone. I also get to schedule work better rather than do what is most recent.
Tim, Cambridge

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