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Have you ever noticed that your friends (or family) who work in technology seem a bit more stressed than the average hedge-fund trader?

One would expect that a person who deals with multi-million dollar deals would be on the high-end of the stress spectrum, whereas a person who deals mainly with bits and bytes would be far less stressed.

A recent study from the University of California at Irvine, titled “A Pace Not Dictated by Electrons” may offer some insight into the stress-filled world of your sysadmin or other tech-employed friends. The study examined, among other things, the results of stress levels in people who did not use email at work for 5 days.

The results of the study indicates that the constant stream of emails that flood all of our inboxes on a daily basis not only cause us to become distracted and focus less, but there were strong indicators that a person who forgoes email actually experiences lowered heart rates.

Despite our illusion that we are masters at multi-tasking, there are indicators that this scattered and distracted approach is detrimental to our ability to gain true insight into a problem, as well as disruptive to the concentration required for deep learning.

While the authors of the study freely admit that their subject group was very small, it is well-worth noting the findings of this report.

Since we are all subjected to seemingly endless emails, what is it that makes me brazenly state that a technology worker is more prone to the stresses and distractions of email?

Machines don’t know when we sleep.

Most technical workers receive numerous updates about the various states of their environment from machinery that doesn’t know the difference between New Year’s Eve and June 3rd. With the exception of the probability of the 23rd person reading this celebrating a birthday on June 3rd, (see The Birthday Paradox), June 3rd probably means nothing to most folks.

However, a machine treats New Year’s Eve exactly the same as any other day, so when it needs to send a message, it does so without considering the time of day, or the day of the year.

While you get to escape the din of email buzz when you are away from your job, and you may receive some messages from co-workers or the occasional Sunday message from your boss, your tech-friends receive multiple messages from their bossy machines 24-hours a day, every day.

Messages such as:

  • Backup job updates
  • Communication link notices
  • Virus Alerts
  • Environmental monitoring systems

These, and many more, all add up to one enormous bundle of distractions. (Many think that cloud computing magically eliminates these problems but that assumption is highly inaccurate.)

Even doctors get a day off every now and then – not so with many of our techy friends.

The next time you notice your stressed-out tech friends twitching over the constantly buzzing devices in their midst, be gentle, as their escape path is not as clear as yours.


Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor, and do not necessarily reflect those of Tripwire, Inc.

Title image courtesy of ShutterStock