Case study: evaluating the effect of email interruptions within the workplace

This experience report outlines the value of measuring the communication processes through electronic monitoring and is a follow up to the paper presented at the EASE 2001 conference last year. The use of email by employees at the Danwood Group was studied and it was found that the interrupt effect from emails was non-trivial. The common reaction to the arrival of an email is to react almost as quickly as responding to telephone calls. This means the interrupt effect is comparable with that of a telephone call. The recovery time from an email interruption was found to be significantly less than the published recovery time for telephone calls. It is to be concluded, therefore, that while email is still less disruptive than the telephone, the way the majority of users handle their incoming email has been shown to give far more interruption than expected. Through analysing the data captured, the authors have been able to create a set of recommended guidelines for email usage. The guidelines will increase employee efficiency by reducing the prominence of interruptions, restricting the use of email-to-all messages, setting up the email application to display three lines of the email and to check for email less frequently. It is recommended that training should be given to staff on how to use email more effectively to increase employee effectiveness.