The cost of infomania

PUBLISHED: 13:47 07 July 2006 | UPDATED: 10:25 06 May 2010

IF YOU constantly feel that you can t get anything done, you re not alone. Dealing with the petty interruptions caused by emails, phone calls and text messages takes up nearly a quarter of the working day, according to a University of California study pub

IF YOU constantly feel that you can't get anything done, you're not alone.

Dealing with the petty interruptions caused by emails, phone calls and text messages takes up nearly a quarter of the working day, according to a University of California study published in New Scientist magazine.

"For more and more people, every day feels like one long string of interruptions with only the gaps in between to get anything done.

"However bad you think it is, it's probably worse," the magazine said.

Researchers found that more than two hours are lost to these distractions every day, making many workers wrongly believe they are suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

After shadowing a dozen information workers for three days, the study found that the workers only managed three sustained minutes of work before being interrupted. As well as being extremely frustrating, the interruptions meant that a quarter of all their work tasks were then deferred until the next day.

Even when the staff did manage to pick up where they left off, it took an average of 25 minutes - and two intervening tasks - before they finally got the job done.

A separate study conducted by Hewlett Packard also found that almost half of all workers spend more time emailing friends than doing their jobs. This 'cybersocialising' could be costing firms more than £760 million a year.

And last year the Institute of Psychiatry found that constant disruption from emails and phone calls had a greater effect on IQ than smoking marijuana.

Those distracted by incoming email and phone calls saw a 10-point fall in their IQ - more than twice that found in studies of the impact of smoking the drug.

More than half of the 1,100 respondents said they always responded to an email immediately or as soon as possible, with 21 per cent admitting they would interrupt a meeting to do so.

The University of London psychologist who carried out the study, Dr Glenn Wilson, warned that the rise in 'infomania' could reduce workers' mental sharpness.

People who constantly break away from tasks to react to email or text messages suffer similar effects on the mind as losing a night's sleep, he said.


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