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Disturbances and Interruptions

Mental Health in the Working World

Employees frequently report on disturbances and interruptions while they are working. The consequences can be strain-related impairments and reduced performance.

According to representative surveys, work interruptions and disturbances are among the most significant mental loads in today's world of work. This is why there has been enormous research interest in this subject in recent years.

Work interruptions describe the brief discontinuation of an action that is caused by an external source, like incoming emails or calls. Work interruptions represent a clearly defined event and are usually accompanied by additional tasks. In this way, they not only distract attention from the primary task but also require a decision on processing the additional task of the interruption: it can be processed immediately or later, it can be ignored or delegated to others. Finally, a return must be made to the incomplete primary task. These processes cost time and (mental) resources.

Unlike interruptions, disturbances can have a continuous effect and are not usually associated with additional tasks. An example of this is building site noise.

Current state of knowledge

A scoping review by the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health summarises the state of scientific knowledge on disturbances and interruptions and considers their interrelation with (mental) health and well-being. It also describes their relation to motivation, job satisfaction and performance. The review also reveals research gaps and discusses options for designing this factor.

The project "Mental Health in the Working World"

The scoping review on disturbances and interruptions is part of the project "Mental Health in the Working World - determining the current state of scientific evidence". The project assesses mental load factors based on the state of scientific knowledge.

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