Vortrag: Multi-tasking in the Workplace: Examining the Nature of Fragmented Work
Most current designs of information technology are based on the notion of supporting distinct tasks such as document production, email usage, and voice communication. In this talk I will present empirical results that challenge this idea and suggest instead that people organize their work in terms of much larger thematically connected units of work. I will discuss results from fieldwork observations of 36 information workers whose activities were timed to the second, over three days. The results show that workers experience a high level of fragmentation in their work, irrespective of their organizational role. People averaged about three minutes on a task before switching tasks or being interrupted. People interrupted themselves almost as often as they were interrupted from external sources.I introduce the concept of working spheres to explain the inherent way in which individuals conceptualize and organize their basic units of work. Working spheres are also fragmented: people worked in an average of 12 different working spheres and switched working spheres about every 10.5 minutes. Most interrupted working spheres are resumed, but only after people first work in more than two others. Collocated workers worked longer than distributed workers before switching, but experienced more interruptions, which I attribute to a higher awareness of their colleagues' natural breaking points in the task. I conclude with a discussion of implications for information technology design: IT needs to support people in maintaining continuity of their work, in light of such frequent task switching.
Ort & Zeit:
Montag, 19. Juni 2006 um 17 Uhr c.t.
Vogt-Kölln-Straße 30, Konrad-Zuse-Hörsaal, Gebäude B