Kingston Business School professor Emma Russell has been researching e-mail interruptions [pdf] and strategies (good and bad) for dealing with them. Science Daily reports that Russell

conducted in-depth interviews with 28 email users and then compiled a list of 88 strategies. She found that many strategies have both positive and negative repercussions for users, depending on what goals are being sought.

For example ‘having email alerts switched on and responding to email on alert’ can have positive benefits if one want to show concern to others – i.e. their email partner. However, it may have negative repercussions in terms of feeling in control, or maintaining a sense of positive well-being.

This work pairs nicely with another recent research project led by Nada Kakabadse and Cristina Quinones-Garcia studying the connectivity habits of workaholics, who they say are "increasingly logging on after work, becoming addicted to the web and are more likely to suffer from withdrawal symptoms when they switch off." A survey of "516 men and women aged between 18 and 65 both employed and unemployed" that measured "compulsive internet usage, emotional stability, excessive work, and compulsive work and life satisfaction."

Researchers said they had expected to find compulsive internet use among the young and the unemployed who had more time on their hands. But they were surprised to find overachievers were actually the most at risk.

The team found the working excessively was the ‘strongest predictor’ of compulsive internet use….

[Kakabadse explains,] "They spend increasing amounts of time online, waking up three times in a night to check their emails, eating patterns become irregular, relationships suffer and they become totally absorbed and feel anxious when separated from the computer."…

[Quinones-Garcia adds,] "individuals who use technology to enable working beyond office hours tend to be highly successful in their jobs, but are at a high risk of developing problems."

As Andrew Kakabadse elaborates,

We discovered that often it is the most successful employees who are at risk of isolation and depression as they increasingly use the Internet to continue working outside of the office. These workaholics are becoming inseparable from the Web and, even more worrying, is the significant number of companies overlooking these dangers because these same workers often generate the most productive results.

We further found a significant number of participants were in denial. When quizzed they often justified their circumstances as an unavoidable part of the job. Some people reported getting up throughout the night to check work emails….

Despite the utopian promise that technology would make our lives easier, longer working-hours and higher expectations are the reality most of us face daily. There is an increasing expectation that employees should always be online and ready to work. The results are an inevitable erosion of family life, relationships and leisure time, all of which ultimately increases levels of occupational stress.

Leaders have the power to choose whether an enhanced balance between work and home will result in a more competitive, energised and innovative workforce.

There's been a certain amount of work done on the organizational costs of e-mail, but not so much on the costs to individuals. Thus the discovery that it's a company's potentially most valuable employees who are most at risk of practicing self-defeating strategies is especially notable.