Purpose – Using email is a time-consuming activity that can increase workload stress. This paper investigates the relationship between the individual’s email load, workload stress and desired email load, drawing from the cybernetic theory of stress.
Design/methodology/approach – Based on prior theory, we first hypothesized relationships among email load, workplace stress and desired email load. We then tested these relationships on a sample of 504 full-time workers in the U.S., using survey data and covariance based structural equation modeling techniques.
Findings – We find that (1) higher email load is associated with higher workload stress; (2) higher workload stress is associated with lower desired email load; (3) lower desired email load is associated with lower email load; and (4) higher workload stress is associated with higher psychological strain, higher negative emotions, and lower organizational commitment.
Originality/value – The study provides a novel understanding of workload stress due to email load, through the lens of cybernetic theory. It contributes to the email overload and technostress literatures by conceptualizing desired email load as a potential outcome of workplace stress and as a regulator for email load. For practitioners, the study highlights the importance of managing employees’ email load to prevent the negative effects of workplace stress and associated strains.