News Column

Frequent Emails, Phone Call Interruptions Affecting Worker Productivity

Jan 25, 2013

Steve Tarter

Worker Productivity

Technology is keeping us all connected these days, but there are concerns that all that incoming data may be cutting into productivity.

Recent research indicates that workers are interrupted, usually by an email or phone call, about 11 times an hour.

There are also study results that show workers spend as much as 23 percent of office time on emails alone.

Those kinds of facts are leading companies to set up online policies, said Donna Greer, director of information systems technology at Midstate College.

"Different businesses already have rules on what you can and cannot do that might affect cellphone use or checking Facebook pages," she said.

"We've heard reports that when companies hold staff meetings, younger staffers bring their smartphones to the meeting. That can lead to distraction problems," said Greer.

Time management has been a concern of business for a long time, predating computer use, she said. "Now you have technology put on top of everything else," said Greer.

While multitasking has become the buzzword of the day, Greer questions how many jobs are really undertaken at once. "You're really only doing one thing at a time," she said.

To avoid being distracted, a worker must judge the importance of the job at hand, said Greer. "It comes down to focusing and prioritizing. Whatever the technology, a company still needs to get tasks done," she said.

Gloria Mark, a professor in the department of informatics at the University of California, Irvine, has made a study of how technology is used, specifically looking at work interruptions.

"What we found is that the average amount of time that people spent on any single event before being interrupted or before switching was about three minutes. Actually, three minutes and five seconds, on average," Mark stated in an interview with the Gallup Business Journal.

Not all interruptions are the same, she said. "People interrupted themselves as much as they were interrupted by external sources -- about 44 percent of the time. The rest of the interruptions were from external sources," noted Mark.

As to getting back on track after being interrupted, Mark said research indicated there was good news and bad news.

"The good news is that most interrupted work was resumed on the same day -- 81.9 percent of the time -- and it was resumed, on average, in 23 minutes and 15 seconds, which I guess is not so long," she said.

"The bad news is, when you're interrupted, you don't immediately go back to the task you were doing before you were interrupted," stated Mark.



Source: (c)2013 Journal Star (Peoria, Ill.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.


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