E-mail notifications, phone calls, text messages, instant messages and activity stream alerts and other distractions are all part of the modern workplace. It’s been long known that interruptions and multi-tasking reduce worker productivity – but by how much?

According to research sponsored by Harmon.ie, a company that sells a solution for integrating Microsoft SharePoint with e-mail (coverage), distractions cost businesses $10,375 per person, per year.

If anything, I’m surprised some of these numbers are so low. But it’s also worth noting that other research has found that using social media improves productivity. This research suggests two possibilities:

  • There isn’t enough data yet to make any sound judgements about the exact impact of distraction, information overload and social media on productivity.
  • The right balance of social media use is important.

Harmon.ie sponsors a blog on the subject of distractions in the workplace called Distracted Enterprise. I’m also quite interested in futurist and historian Alex Pang’s research in what he calls “contemplative computing.” Pang runs a blog on the subject, and has released a early draft of an academic paper on his ideas.

And of course, Nicholas Carr has been writing about the effects of the Internet on cognition for the past couple years.