The Siren Song of Multitasking

The Siren Song of Multitasking

Yet multiple technologies often translate into multiple interruptions: On average, workers are interrupted once every ten and a half minutes, according to Gloria Mark, a professor at the University of California, Irvine, who studied the cost of worker multitasking. Once interrupted, it takes a worker 23 minutes on average to get back to the task she was working on. Open screens on desktops, files on the desk, and coworkers all distracted workers so that only 55 percent of work was resumed immediately.

Writes Mark, “This suggests a fairly high cognitive cost to resume work, as people are distracted by multiple other topics, and sometimes even nested interruptions. Our informants report that this can result in redundant work as they reorient.” Mark acknowledges that interruptions are often relevant to the work at hand, but notes that “reorientation” to the task comes at a cognitive cost. A report from Basex quantified the cost of interruptions. It found that the average knowledge worker loses 2.1 hours per day to “unimportant interruptions or distractions.”

Quite simply, people need the mental and physical space to think. In fact, the number-one predictor of job performance and satisfaction is the ability to concentrate in one’s own workplace. While work environments that include places for quiet, uninterrupted work as well as collaborative work can help a worker fight the urge to multitask, a worker’s ability to concentrate comes in part from being determined to concentrate.

via: The “multitasking” delusion

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5 thoughts on “The Siren Song of Multitasking

  1. Great information in your blog! I like the way you gave tangible numbers to the loss in productivity. If we add dollars to your example, it becomes quite staggering. If an employee is paid $50,000 per year, two hours of wasted time per day equates to $256 per week. If employers don’t create work environments or adopt cultural practices that encourage employees to focus, they are losing HUGE amounts of money!

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