(CNN)We’re drowning in email. We check it incessantly — more than half of American workers check email at least once an hour. And at night. And on weekends. And on vacation.

The compulsion to constantly check, respond, clean out and keep on top of an overflowing inbox is actually making us stressed out, distracted, miserable and sick.
So sick that on January 1, a “right to disconnect from email” law went into effect in France as a way to reduce worker stress and burnout and improve quality of life.
But what if the ability to disconnect has less to do with legislation and more with our often irrational human psychology?
If you believe, as the French government does, that work-obsessed bosses and demanding work cultures are what drive people to stay tethered to the “electronic leash” of the office, “like a dog,” as one member of parliament put it, then passing a law requiring companies to negotiate new limits on after-hours email makes sense.
And it’s true, a manager who emails at all hours and expects a reply — or who doesn’t make clear that they don’t — is sending a powerful signal that they value working all the time. Research into work-life stress has found, not surprisingly, that workers will sometimes get up in the middle of the night to send an email with a late time stamp, so their workaholic bosses will think they, too, are working late into the night.
So you’d think that if top managers sent a very different signal — a series of emails, say, reminding workers that the offices will be closed and to enjoy their vacation — workers would be able to unplug, right?
To find out, ideas42, a nonprofit that uses behavioral science to understand and design solutions to thorny social problems — including a current project on work-life conflict that the Better Life Lab is a partner on — decided to run an experiment over the winter holiday, using themselves as guinea pigs.
Read more about the experiment and the science that keeps us tethered to email on CNN.comĀ here

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