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More Technology More Interruptions


Mon Feb 23 2015

More Technology More Interruptions

As much as we like to tout the modern technology in our homes and offices that make us more informed and connected, a downside needs to be explored and understood—lest we dwell in delusion.



The increasing amount of technology and equipment in the workplace translates an ever-expanding array of interruptions for workers. These interruptions diminish productivity levels, are costly to the employer, and have a substantial negative impact on the economy.


On an individual level, legions of workers—who otherwise are prepared to handle a multitude of tasks and projects—are thwarted daily. The frequency and nature of the interruptions they endure significantly reduce their effectiveness.  After working all day, professionals increasingly find that they have accomplished much less than expected.


Interruption Corruption 


Basex, an information technology firm, undertook a survey to indicate how costly interruptions have become in the U.S. economy. The study found that on average, interruptions consume 28 percent of the workday—that is nearly two hours and 30 minutes. Interruptions have a adverse impact on a worker’s productivity that is undeniable. Worse, the effects of even a single interruption can result in greater consequences than one might presume.


Similarly, a study at the University of California revealed that employees spend, on average, only 11 minutes on any particular task or project before they incur an interruption. Then, on average, another 25 minutes pass before they resume work on the original task or project.


Other studies reveal an even more distressing picture. In some surveys, interruptions were found to occur at a rate of every three to eight minutes. Smartphones and email are two of the main interruption enablers:    

  • Smartphone intrusion: Imagine a scenario in which the typical individual checks her smart phone at least 150 times a day, equal to every six minutes over 15 hours. Could anyone complete work in this environment? In fact, in the United States today, more than 60 percent of people pick up their cell phones immediately after arising from the morning, and check their cell phones at least 150 times a day. Outside of work, would any spouse, parent, or friend be considered fully present while checking their phone every six minutes?

  • Email avalanche. In the United States, 204 million emails are sent every minute of every day. With a U.S. adult population of roughly 204 million people, you can do the math. In some organizations, as much as 25 percent of a worker’s day is involved with email, and nearly half of that time is wasted. Indeed, we “cc” and “bcc” each other endlessly.

    Are you not feeling as sharp on some days as you know you could be? Based on some studies, the constant bombardment of emails that we receive, along with other workplace interruptions, result in a 10 percent loss in IQ. This loss in mental acuity is equal to missing an entire night's sleep.

More Than Ever Before

What can we conclude from this ominous, emerging trend? 

Individually and collectively, more than ever before, we need to safeguard our workplaces from unnecessary intrusion—whether it is sound, alerts, message indicators, visitors, or anything else. The quiet and distraction-free environment, in which most people prefer to work, requires both a personal and a group effort. Supervisors, team members, co-workers, and peers have a major impact on the degree to which we're able to work uninterrupted. Thus, we need to safeguard our own immediate environment, as well as help those around us to safeguard theirs.

So, when it comes to reducing the potential for interruptions, reciprocation could well prove to be the greatest single measure in containing the beast.

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