Looking Up Information in Email: Feedback on Visit Durations Discourages Distractions

in CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems Extended Abstracts, Conference paper (text), Montreal, CA

Abstract

Data entry often involves looking up information from
email. Task switching to email can be disruptive, and
people can get distracted and forget to return to their
primary task. In this paper, we investigate whether
giving people feedback on how long they are away has
any effect on the duration and number of their
switches. An online experiment was conducted in which
participants had to enter numeric codes into an online
spreadsheet. They had to look up these codes in an
email sent to their personal email upon starting the
experiment. People who were shown how long they
were away for made shorter switches, were faster to
complete the task and made fewer data entry errors.
This suggests feedback on switching duration may
make people more aware of their switching behaviour,
and assist users in maintaining focus on their main
task.