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E-mail load, workload stress and desired e-mail load: a cybernetic approach

Jean-Francois Stich (ICN Business School – CEREFIGE, Nancy, France)
Monideepa Tarafdar (Department of Management Science, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)
Patrick Stacey (School of Business and Economics, Loughborough University, Loughborough, UK)
Cary L. Cooper (Alliance Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)

Information Technology & People

ISSN: 0959-3845

Article publication date: 23 August 2018

Issue publication date: 15 March 2019




Using e-mail is a time-consuming activity that can increase workload stress. The purpose of this paper is to investigate the relationship between the individual’s e-mail load, workload stress and desired e-mail load, drawing from the cybernetic theory of stress.


Based on prior theory, the authors first hypothesized relationships among e-mail load, workplace stress and desired e-mail load. The authors then tested these relationships on a sample of 504 full-time workers in the USA, using survey data and covariance-based structural equation modeling techniques.


The authors find that higher e-mail load is associated with higher workload stress; higher workload stress is associated with lower desired e-mail load; lower desired e-mail load is associated with lower e-mail load; and higher workload stress is associated with higher psychological strain, higher negative emotions and lower organizational commitment.


The study provides a novel understanding of workload stress due to e-mail load, through the lens of cybernetic theory. It contributes to the e-mail overload and technostress literatures by conceptualizing desired e-mail load as a potential outcome of workplace stress and as a regulator for e-mail load. For practitioners, the study highlights the importance of managing employees’ e-mail load to prevent the negative effects of workplace stress and associated strains.



Role of the funding source: Qualtrics LLC provided research support of $3,000 for this research that was used for participant recruitment. The company was not involved at any stage of this research.


Stich, J.-F., Tarafdar, M., Stacey, P. and Cooper, C.L. (2019), "E-mail load, workload stress and desired e-mail load: a cybernetic approach", Information Technology & People, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 430-452.



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