Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore the effect of e‐mail interruptions on tasks and to explore the concept of e‐mail addiction within the workplace. Design/methodology/approach – Data were collected from a large car rental company in the UK. The first collection method involved observing the effects of simulated e‐mail interruptions on seven employees by measuring the interrupt handling time, the interrupt recovery time, and the additional time required to complete the task given the number of interruptions. The second part of the study involved a questionnaire sent to 100 employees to capture addictive characteristics in employees' e‐mail communication behaviour. Findings – E‐mail interruptions have a negative time impact upon employees and show that both interrupt handling and recovery time exist. A typical task takes one third longer than undertaking a task with no e‐mail interruptions. The questionnaire data show clinical characteristics classify 12 per cent of e‐mail addicts, and behavioural characteristics classify 15 per cent of e‐mail addicts in the workplace. Research limitations/implications – Observation was constrained by the timeframes and availability of the participating organisation. Measuring an employee receiving e‐mail interruptions over a greater time period might achieve a more comprehensive understanding of the impact. Originality/value – The small study is the first to determine the impact of e‐mail interruptions on work tasks by observing employees, and to present a method to determine e‐mail addiction. By understanding these factors, organisations can manage workflow strategies to improve employee efficiency and effectiveness.
Journal of Systems and Information Technology – Emerald Publishing
Published: Mar 17, 2012
Keywords: United Kingdom; Employees behaviour; Electronic mail; Addiction; e‐mail addiction; e‐mail handing; e‐mail recovery time; Managing e‐mail communications; Task interruption
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