Faculty Scholarship 1994 - Present

Investigating the Effects of Distraction and Task Complexity on Knowledge Worker Productivity in the Context of Mobile Computing Environments

Mobile wireless computing is quickly growing in scope and popularity, and holds the promise of being the next major paradigm in personal computing. Given that mobile wireless computing does not limit the personal movement of individuals, this anytime, anyplace computing will provide both benefits and challenges. The ability to communicate anytime/anyplace offers new levels of flexibility and convenience, opening up numerous possibilities within the realm of work. Tasks that have been traditionally undertaken in a fixed setting, such as an office, can now be performed virtually anywhere, liberating knowledge workers from their cubicle prisons. Similarly, many types of field work can now benefit from any time/any place information accessibility and communications capabilities. Drawing on distraction-conflict theory, this research proposes a model of knowledge worker task performance within the context of a mobile wireless work environment. To test this model, a controlled laboratory experiment was conducted that contrasted task complexity and distraction levels on the task performance of individuals within a mobile wireless environment. Results indicate that regardless of task complexity, productivity losses will occur under both lower and higher levels of distraction. The implications of these results for future research and for the deployment of mobile technologies within organizations are discussed.