EVERY office has them, the obsessive e-mail checkers, those cyber-addicted types who are just unable to stop clicking on their inboxes. You might well be one of them.

They tend to fall into two categories - the ones who access their inboxes several times an hour or whenever they get an e-mail alert, or those who just sit there and stare at the screen, willing an e-mail to land.

As Ms Angeline Teo, who has coached clients in personal efficiency programmes, said: 'Some people will stare and wonder, 'How come I have only 20 e-mail messages today instead of 200?''

The managing director of PEPWorldwide Asia and D'Oz International noted that such behaviour is clearly a bad working habit and a definite waste of time.

Like all bad habits, they are hard to kick but should be kicked. 'We are inundated with all kinds of information these days and it is easy to fall into the trap of being stuck in front of the computer,' Ms Teo said.

With so many cool devices out there offering easy access to all manner of online diversions, it is easy for people to get addicted to tweeting their every move and updating their Facebook page 24/7.

The challenge is not to become fixated with such convenient access but to be more efficient, said an executive whose company has issued her a laptop and an iPhone.

Often, we e-mail one another in the office even though we can call or easily walk over to make contact.

'We are making robots of people. People are becoming less emotional and we are losing face-to-face contact,' warned Ms Teo.

So just how do you handle constant connectivity to work in this increasingly wired world in a way that still leaves you sane and free to spend quality time with loved ones?

Industry experts agree that the answer lies with the individual, although more corporations around the world are also taking steps to improve the situation for their employees.

Ms Teo said the first thing is to be aware that you have bad habits like checking your inbox too often.

'We need to be very disciplined to set time to look at e-mail and focus on real-life events like meeting people.

'I've coached people who told me their boss will e-mail them at 3am and expect a response at 7am.'

Her advice is to communicate and find out if that is the case. 'At the end of the day, we have the freedom of choice. We can choose whether to reply by 7am or we can check to see whether we need to respond by 7am.'

Very often, we are guilty of imposing all these rules and expectations on ourselves as the employer may not be expecting a reply by 7am, she said. But if the employer does, you can always negotiate for a new timeline, she added.

Another tip is to take a break from work e-mail when you are busy with a strategic report, for instance, although that does not mean you should ignore it.

Ms Teo suggests creating an auto-reply which says you will respond tomorrow. 'This way, you don't have to look at the content of the e-mail and think about it.'

Former IT industry veteran Roger Yuen said having your work e-mail pushed to your smartphone can help with productivity as you can deal with it on the move and get your work out of the way.

Now the chief executive of online start-up Clozette, he believes in having self-imposed downtime when it comes to managing connectivity at work.

He has a house rule - no phones, television or working during dinner time so family members can spend time connecting with one another.

'It's about how you make use of technology. It's like smoking, you can choose not to smoke. Don't blame technology,' he said.

Some companies hand out smartphones as a bonus, thinking it will help employees achieve a better work-life balance as they are not desk-bound, said Mr Caleb Baker, the Asia-Pacific managing director of human resource firm Talent2.

But others believe the use of mobile devices just increases e-mail activity and not actual employee productivity, he added.

Hence, it is important for businesses to understand what exactly will be expected of employees before they hand out smartphones.

Mr Baker said they can develop policies to help employees better manage expectations of what is required from smartphone use.

To help staff switch off work, German carmaker Volkswagen recently agreed with labour representatives to curb work e-mail sent to employees' BlackBerry phones when they are off work.

It will stop routing messages to them half an hour after the end of a shift and resume half an hour before work starts.

A blackout period helps if the top management endorses it and everyone embraces it, said Ms Teo.

'More companies in Singapore are embarking on different variations of this no-e-mail blackout period. This is the way forward to maintain the productivity of our knowledge workers.

'We must drive a corporate culture in which we respect one another's time. But ultimately, it is the individual who must decide that he wants to stay in control and be disciplined.

'You can set your own rules and educate other people to accept you for who you are.'