Multitasking at the office doesn’t work, says new study

Researchers suggest workers put away their cell phones and turn off email notifications to increase productivity. Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Researchers suggest workers put away their cell phones and turn off email notifications to increase productivity.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

 

A new study confirms what many office workers have long suspected: multitasking doesn’t work.

A paper in the journal Human Factors notes that the average office worker is interrupted 6 times every hour and that these interruptions deeply impact the quality of work produced.

“People don’t realize how disruptive interruptions can be,” said Cyrus Foroughi, one of the co-authors of the study told Science Daily. “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 and his fellow researchers asked two different groups of participants to write an essay for them. While each group was given enough time to write and outline their compositions on the assigned topic,  one group was repeatedly interrupted while participants attempted to write their essays. The control group, in the meantime, was given peace and quiet to work on their writing.  The essay graders found a significant decrease in quality in the pieces by the interrupted group.

Wondering how you can focus on the task at hand while in the office? Foroughi told the Human Factors that he recommends turning off your cell phone and disabling email notifications while you get to work.

Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.



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