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

Jul 14, 2014

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.

"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 and applied cognition program. "There is value in determining whether interruptions affect the quality of the tasks that many people perform regularly, such as essays or reports."

Foroughi, with coauthors Nicole Werner, Erik Nelson, and Deborah Boehm-Davis, designed a study assessing how varying levels of 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."

Explore further: Automated-grading skeptic uses Babel to expose nonsense essay

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study: Brief interruptions spawn errors

Jan 07, 2013

Short interruptions – such as the few seconds it takes to silence that buzzing smartphone – have a surprisingly large effect on one's ability to accurately complete a task, according to new research led ...

What was I doing? Interruptions can change purchase decisions

Sep 15, 2008

You're on your computer, about to buy a vacation package when the phone rings. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, when you return to the computer after the interruption, you may have a completely differ ...

Recommended for you

Consumer loyalty driven by aesthetics over functionality

28 minutes ago

When designing a new car, manufacturers might try to attract consumers with more horsepower, increased fuel efficiency or a lower price point. But new research from San Francisco State University shows consumers' loyalty ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.