Home / Headlines / Gmail Goes Down and America’s Productivity Goes Through the Roof

Gmail Goes Down and America’s Productivity Goes Through the Roof

Last Updated September 25, 2020 8:41 PM
Simon Chandler
Last Updated September 25, 2020 8:41 PM
  • Gmail went down this morning, leaving thousands if not millions of people unable to send emails and attachments.
  • Most people have reacted with surprise and irritation, but the absence of email is a good thing.
  • A large body of research has shown that emails can increase stress and reduce productivity, so Gmail’s outage may have convenienced as many people as it inconvenienced.

Gmail suffered a service outage earlier today, leaving millions of people unable to send emails. The outage also affected other Google apps such as Google Drive, preventing users from sending email attachments.

Google confirmed the outage on its status page on Thursday. | Source: Google Suite 

Hundreds if not thousands of Gmail users flocked to Twitter to complain about the outage.

Their apparent irritation is misplaced. Many users were just as likely to benefit from Gmail’s absence, since research has consistently shown that emails can reduce productivity and increase stress. So rather than preventing people from working, the outage may have caused the opposite.

Gmail Down = Productivity Up

Google is arguably one of the most reputable tech companies  in the world, so the fact that Gmail went down this morning was a cause for surprise. The email service counts around 1.5 billion users worldwide , many of whom apparently believe that Google is somehow impervious to technical problems.

Gmail down surprise tweet
A Gmail user express considerable surprise that a Google service suffered an outage. | Source: Twitter 

Aside from surprise, most users posting to Twitter expressed annoyance about having to wait to send emails and attachments. As if they had nothing else to do in the meantime.

Gmail down irritation tweet
A Twitter user complains about having to wait to upload and send an attachment. | Source: Twitter 

Judging by media coverage of the outage, the consensus seems to be that it’s a minor disaster . Some people were inconvenienced for about an hour, which I suppose is newsworthy because it contradicts the popular fiction that neoliberal capitalism is a utopia of non-stop, seamless convenience.

The outage wasn’t a disaster for work and productivity, however. It was quite the opposite: for every person who struggled to upload an attachment, there were hundreds, thousands or maybe millions who didn’t receive a tedious work email.

Gmail down happiness tweet
One Twitter user expresses pleasure at not receiving work emails. | Source: Twitter 

You might think that 100% of work emails are necessary and important. You’re wrong: most work emails are distracting fluff intended to reassure the person sending them (or that person’s boss) that they’re doing something.

Most work emails ironically distract people from their work. So by going down, Gmail has likely helped millions of people work without disturbance this morning. Hooray!

Emails Are A Scam

This isn’t just opinion. The idea that emails can be more trouble than they’re worth is backed up by a considerable body of research.

In 2016, researchers from MIT, the University of California and Microsoft (how ironic) published a paper on “Patterns of Email Use on Productivity and Stress .”

Its conclusion?

“The longer daily duration spent on email, the lower the assessed productivity and the higher the stress.”

Other papers back up this research. A 2014 paper from the University of British Columbia also found that email causes stress .

“Our findings showed that people felt less stressed when they checked their email less often,” said Kostadin Kushlev, the study’s lead author.

A 2o12 US Army and UC Irvine  study discovered that being “cut off from work email significantly reduces stress and allows employees to focus far better.”

This could go on indefinitely. The point is, Gmail going down is a cause for celebration. For several hours this morning, people actually had the opportunity to work uninterrupted.

Downdetector chart
Outage reporting service Downdetector should a spike in Gmail complaints around 6:00am (UTC+1). | Source: Downdetector 

They didn’t have to stop to reply to their boondoggling boss or some jobsworth who wanted to feel important. They just worked.

Gmail — like many other email services — is a scam. It’s not a productivity booster. It’s a way for Google to collect even more of your personal data . Let’s hope it goes down again.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of CCN.com.