IM = Interruption Management? Instant Messaging and Disruption in the Workplace

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Abstract

Some scholars worry that Instant Messaging (IM), by virtue of the ease with which users can initiate and participate in online conversations, contributes to an increase in task interruption. Others argue that workers use IM strategically, employing it in ways that reduce interruption. This article examines the relationship between IM and interruption, using data collected via a (U.S.) national telephone survey of full-time workers who regularly use computers (N = 912). Analysis of these data indicates that IM use has no influence on overall levels of work communication. However, people who utilize IM at work report being interrupted less frequently than non-users, and they engage in more frequent computer-mediated communication than non-users, including both work-related and personal communication. These results are consistent with claims that employees use IM in ways that help them to manage interruption, such as quickly obtaining task-relevant information and negotiating conversational availability.

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