Progress = Pro-Stress?

A new study, reported at, has found that workers have a new nemesis: e-mail stress. It’s one more example that progress sometimes means pro-stress.

E-mail is a powerful tool, but this seems to me one more evidence that we mishandle tools at least as often as we use them well. A Google search for “email stress” (I still like the hyphen, but it’s already gone) yielded more than 12000 matches. (Some of course are reporting on the same study.) The most curious was a request from teachers to pay for tutors to respond to student emails:

On the face of it, the bid by independent school teachers and university tutors to get paid for email communications might fit one of two likely scenarios. Is it a pay grab holding to ransom technology’s productivity gains, or are latter-day Luddites trying to turn back the technology juggernaut? But scratch away at it.

The workplace has changed irretrievably. The office travels with the laptop and mobile phone. In service industries, particularly, demarcation between work and rest has blurred. Insistence on instant access has thrust new demands on service providers no longer blessed with after-hours sacrosanctity.

The Independent Education Union and the National Tertiary Education Union have made the first industrial claims over so-called email stress. The former is pursuing a pay claim as compensation for the strains of new technology. The latter is seeking provision for casual tutors to be paid for answering students’ emails. . . .

[T]he unresolved issue of when work finishes and recreation begins will not be brushed aside by a technology intrusion that will only intensify.


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