The Eckhard-Pfeiffer Professor of Computer Science at the University of Houston, Ioannis Pavlidis, reveals in a study on stress and productivity patterns that for most people cognitive multi-tasking increases stress levels. In his study, cognitive activity was office work. Two groups of people were studied using an extensive array of imaging and wearable sensors. As one group worked, they received sporadic emails, serving as frequent interruptions to their office work and creative process. The other group received emails in batches. The majority of people had elevated stress levels when frequently interrupted by sporadic emails. A prevalent form of multi-tasking is high frequency interruptions. It is a form of multi-tasking that people do not often think about or catch themselves doing.
What interrupts you the most at work? Responding to e-mails? In reality, while it seems like work gets done, production decreases and stress levels increase. It is a common habit among people in the work place. There is one minority, however, that did not show any signs of stress. They were referred to as an ‘exception,’ and that they have ‘neurotic tendencies.’ The conclusion (for now): unless you are one of the few people who can handle it, you should avoid multi-tasking.