The Checkup: Could You Give Up Email for Five Days?

One study tested subjects’ stress levels when they gave up email for a whole work week. The results might surprise you.

• It took four years—yes, years—but a researcher at UC Irvine finally found a group of coworkers willing to take a vacation from their email. Informatics professor Gloria Mark wanted to see what would happen to employees’ stress levels and productivity if she got them to swear off email for several days. So she rigged up 13 volunteers with all kinds of sensors—on their bodies, chairs, doorways and desks, to help track behavior and biologic patterns—and had them give up email for an entire work week, five days. At first, she told the Los Angeles Times, her team couldn’t find any discernible differences. But by the fifth day, patterns started to emerge: The employees heart rates showed they were less stressed, they were able to focus on individual tasks for longer stretches without disruption, and the subjects reported getting up out of their chairs and moving around a lot more than when they were on email. And they said the increased face-to-face interaction with their coworkers was reported as a positive thing. Sounds good, right? The challenge, of course, is that email vacations only work if your entire office—or, at least, most of it—swears off email at the same time. The subjects said that once the experiment was over, they quickly went back to their old ways.

• Here’s an outcome of obesity I didn’t see coming: a spike in the number of personal trainers and fitness professionals. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says it expects the field to grow by 24 percent in the next decade. Reuters has more.

NPR reports on a New Jersey high schooler, who invented a cellphone that acts as an electrocardiogram for people with cardiac problems. Seventeen-year-old Catherine Wong built the device out of parts anyone could buy at a place like Radio Shack. Wong was the winner in NPR’s “Joe’s Big Idea” contest.