How to Interrupt Someone's Workday


Through an analysis of their logs and a series of in-depth interviews, we found that positively-perceived interruptions were in fact almost as common as negative ones: Of the 251 interruptions reported by our participants, 31% were experienced positively, while 34% were negative and 35% were neutral.

Clearly, how we experience an interruption can vary substantially depending on how it affects our work.

While switching gears and shuffling our schedules around to accommodate an unexpected task can be frustrating, interruptions can feel positive if they seem like a good use of our time.

People are more likely to see an interruption as worth their time if the task they're being asked to do seems important - especially if it seems more important than whatever they were working on previously.

In our study, we found that people's perceptions about how long an interruption seemed to last influenced how they felt about it.

At the same time, a greater reliance on instant messaging, video calls, and other digital tools creates its own challenges, as many barriers to interruptions are substantially reduced.