June 19, 2008
Electronic Distractions Cutting Worker Productivity

These companies are just figuring this out? Slow learners anyone?

Some of the biggest technology firms, including Microsoft, Intel, Google and I.B.M., are banding together to fight information overload. Last week they formed a nonprofit group to study the problem, publicize it and devise ways to help workers theirs and others cope with the digital deluge.

Their effort comes as statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.

The big chip maker Intel found in an eight-month internal study that some employees who were encouraged to limit digital interruptions said they were more productive and creative as a result.

Intel and other companies are already experimenting with solutions. Small units at some companies are encouraging workers to check e-mail messages less frequently, to send group messages more judiciously and to avoid letting the drumbeat of digital missives constantly shake up and reorder to-do lists.

Tom DeMarco and Anthony Lister explained this problem back in the 1980s in their book Peopleware. Yes, interruptions are costly because it takes a while to get the mind refocused with all the mental chess pieces back where they were. Yes, people get addicted to their email. But partly that's because bosses will call meetings in email for meetings that are supposed to start in 45 minutes (and I hate that). How you going to know that unless you are checking your email every half hour?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 June 19 11:06 PM  Comm Tech Society

Ivan Kirigin said at June 20, 2008 3:16 PM:

I know the guys behind RescueTime.com

It is an excellent service

averros said at June 20, 2008 10:21 PM:

They should start by curbing meetings, status reports, teleconferences, company policies, ethics training courses, etc, etc, etc - all these tools the corporate middle management uses to create illusion of working and to destroy productivity of those who do real work.

But, then, this is a kind of initative which comes from the management. Expect it to spectacularly produce nothing.

Allan said at June 21, 2008 1:39 PM:

Of course no one is reading Future Pundit at work!

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