multi tasking on the job

Only Losers Don’t Multitask

April 24, 2013 / by / 0 Comment
  • SumoMe

In an intriguing blog post for Spain’s EL PAÍS, Karelia Vázquez reflects on the fact that “having less than twenty tabs open in Firefox may be for cowards” these days…

We are destined to be interrupted. That’s the current state of affairs, and you better start accepting that fact. As we get to work today, we will be interrupted once, twice, then again and again. And our day job consists of being distracted and constantly having to refocus.

It’s easy to blame the Internet, along with mobile and social networks. 57% of all work interruptions come from the electronic media and social networking, including instant messaging (Whatsapp, Imessage, etc..), Google, Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, endless online searches, and from jumping from one browser window to another (we work, on average, with eight windows open at the same time).

However, the remaining 43% of what makes us lose focus consists of disruptive phone calls, chatting with colleagues (such as going outside for a smoke) and more or less useful and productive meetings. Over 45% of respondents said that the most they managed to work without being interrupted was 15 minutes at one time. Does this sound familiar to you?

This data comes from a survey conducted in the United States. This means that we cheated a little because we cannot be 100% sure that this exact same data applies to Spain as well (less than serious blogs like this one tend to manipulate their readers this way). That being said, these numbers sound familiar and I have shown them to a few people. Not one of them felt they were out of range for Spain.

The survey was conducted in March 2012 by uSamp, a company that studies trends in the U.S. labor market. This study also reveals the rate and frequency of interruptions. 45% of employees said they lost at least an hour a day via all sorts of distractions. For example, when going to a meeting, most people agreed that they took their phones along and occasionally answered emails (48%), calls (35%), engaged in chats (28%), updated their status in a social network (12%) or tweeted (9%).

What we do know about Spain is the time we connect to Twitter. According to the Study on the Use of Twitter in 2012 (by the Spanish Association for the Digital Economy), 43.9% of users connect to Twitter from work (lunchtime being the least busy time slot). Other research by the Branchats agency indicates that Twitter is busier and more active between 1:00pm and 6:00pm, with a peak of activity at 11.00 am.

Shoppydoo also reports that many online purchases are made during business hours. The company reported a surge in visits to price comparison site between the hours of 8:00am and 2:00pm (46.62%) with 11.00am being the peak traffic hour. The same trend can be observed in France, Italy and Germany.

Here we leave you with the pyramid of digital distractions, designed by David McCandles in 2009. Note that each level overrides the previous distraction.

hierarchy of digital distractions

The Hierarchy of Digital Distractions



Dom Einhorn is a proud Alsatian interested in a wide variety of subject matter, from literature and politics to science and sports. He speaks 5 languages fluently and calls both Wyoming and France "home." Dom is also a trivia fanatic and the editor of