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Say 'no' to interruptions, 'yes' to better work

Date:
July 14, 2014
Source:
Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
Summary:
Modern office workers are expected to multitask regularly, often juggling multiple projects and priorities over the course of a day. Studies have shown that the typical employee in an office environment is interrupted up to six times per hour, but how does that impact the finished product? New research evaluates how ongoing interruptions can negatively affect the quality of work.

Modern office workers are expected to multitask regularly, often juggling multiple projects and priorities over the course of a day. Studies have shown that the typical employee in an office environment is interrupted up to six times per hour, but how does that impact the finished product? New research published in Human Factors evaluates how ongoing interruptions can negatively affect the quality of work.

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"People don't realize how disruptive interruptions can be," said Cyrus Foroughi, coauthor of "Do Interruptions Affect Quality of Work?" and a PhD candidate at George Mason University's human factors and applied cognition program. "There is value in determining whether interruptions affect the quality of the tasks that many people perform regularly, such as writing essays or reports."

Foroughi, with coauthors Nicole Werner, Erik Nelson, and Deborah Boehm-Davis, designed a study assessing how varying levels of interruption affected writing quality in an essay project. Two groups of participants were given time to outline and write an essay on an assigned topic. One group was interrupted multiple times with an unrelated task, and a control group had no interruptions. Independent graders scored the finished essays on a numbered scale.

The researchers found significantly lower quality in essays completed by the participants who were interrupted during the outline and writing phases than in essays of those who were not interrupted. In addition, those participants who were interrupted during the writing phase wrote considerably fewer words.

"Interruption can cause a noticeable decrement in the quality of work, so it's important to take steps to reduce the number of external interruptions we encounter daily," said Foroughi. "For example, turn off your cell phone and disable notifications such as e-mail while trying to complete an important task."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Cyrus Foroughi et al. Do Interruptions Affect Quality of Work? Human Factors, July 2014 DOI: 10.1177/0018720814531786

Cite This Page:

Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. "Say 'no' to interruptions, 'yes' to better work." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 July 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140714122606.htm>.
Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. (2014, July 14). Say 'no' to interruptions, 'yes' to better work. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 30, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140714122606.htm
Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. "Say 'no' to interruptions, 'yes' to better work." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140714122606.htm (accessed January 30, 2015).

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