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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. Examples of this are incoming emails or calls. Work interruptions represent a clearly defined event and are usually accompanied by additional tasks. In this way, they not only ensure distractions but also require a decision on processing the task of the interruption: the task 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 of disturbances and interruptions and considers their interrelationships with (mental) health and well-being. It also describes their relations 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 by means of the state of scientific knowledge.

For further detailed information please refer to our German Website.