Italy: Company trials email-free working to cut stress

Gabel president Michele Moltrasio Image copyright Gabel
Image caption The company's president, Michele Moltrasio, says the email-free week is encouraging more direct communication

An Italian company has told staff to refrain from sending any internal emails for a week in an effort to reduce stress levels.

Home textiles company Gabel, based in the northern Como region, commissioned an expert to interview its employees about what their main concerns were at work, the local La Provincia di Como website reports. Many said that managing the huge volume of internal correspondence was a burden during the working day. That prompted the company's management to propose a solution, which - somewhat ironically - was sent to all staff in an email.

"Together we will begin the following experiment, which will take us back in time to when people talked more," managing director Emilio Colombo wrote, declaring an "email free" week until 13 November. "We invite you not to use email for internal communications (between colleagues at the same location), in favour of a more direct and immediate contact."

The company's president, Michele Moltrasio, tells the BBC it hasn't been easy to stop such an "ingrained" practice, even temporarily, but that employees have welcomed the challenge. "They are rediscovering the pleasure of meeting and talking rather than writing," he says. And that includes Mr Moltrasio, who is avoiding emails along with everyone else. "Even if from next week we all go back to using email, these days of experimentation are very worthwhile, to understand and rethink the methods and pace of working," he says.

Several recent studies have found that a high volume of emails raises stress levels at work. In 2013, researchers said that a full inbox led to peaks in people's blood pressure and heart rate. And last year, a study at the University of British Columbia found that limiting email use during the day lowered people's stress levels "significantly".

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