E-mails 'hurt IQ more than pot'
LONDON, England -- Workers distracted by phone calls, e-mails and text messages suffer a greater loss of IQ than a person smoking marijuana, a British study shows.
The constant interruptions reduce productivity and leave people feeling tired and lethargic, according to a survey carried out by TNS Research and commissioned by Hewlett Packard.
The survey of 1,100 Britons showed:
- Almost two out three people check their electronic messages out of office hours and when on holiday
- Half of all workers respond to an e-mail within 60 minutes of receiving one
- One in five will break off from a business or social engagement to respond to a message.
- Nine out of 10 people thought colleagues who answered messages during face-to-face meetings were rude, while three out of 10 believed it was not only acceptable, but a sign of diligence and efficiency.
But the mental impact of trying to balance a steady inflow of messages with getting on with normal work took its toll, the UK's Press Association reported.
In 80 clinical trials, Dr. Glenn Wilson, a psychiatrist at King's College London University, monitored the IQ of workers throughout the day.
He found the IQ of those who tried to juggle messages and work fell by 10 points -- the equivalent to missing a whole night's sleep and more than double the 4-point fall seen after smoking marijuana.
"This is a very real and widespread phenomenon," Wilson said. "We have found that this obsession with looking at messages, if unchecked, will damage a worker's performance by reducing their mental sharpness.
"Companies should encourage a more balanced and appropriate way of working."
Wilson said the IQ drop was even more significant in the men who took part in the tests.
"The research suggests that we are in danger of being caught up in a 24-hour 'always on' society," said David Smith of Hewlett Packard.
"This is more worrying when you consider the potential impairment on performance and concentration for workers, and the consequent impact on businesses."