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The true cost of email interruptions

Tasks take a third longer to complete when staff are interrupted by email, new research from Loughborough University has found.

Academics from the University’s Department of Information Science have conducted several research projects into the effects of email on staff productivity and stress levels.

In this small study the team focussed on a large UK car rental company where selected staff were given a task to complete, followed by simulated email interruptions.  The interrupt handling time, recovery time and the additional time to complete the original task were then measured.

The study found that a typical task takes a third longer to complete than undertaking a task with no email interruptions.

Dr Tom Jackson, nicknamed ‘Dr Email’ for his extensive research in this area, led the project.  He said: “From previous studies we knew that email causes disruption and a loss in productivity, but it was incredibly interesting to discover just what an impact email interruptions have on individual tasks.

“With tasks taking up to a third longer, bad email management can have a significant impact on workforce productivity.”

For further information about Dr Jackson’s work in this area visit: http://www.drthomasjackson.com/

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: PR 12/74

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2011 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the UK’s Best Student Experience every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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