How Much Time is Wasted by an Email Interruption?

How much time is wasted when an email comes in and disrupts a user? I think it's much more than most people might think, an average of about three minutes per interruption.

How Does the Wasted Time Break Down?

The main components are:

  • Switching time. A knowledge worker takes on an average 1 min and 44 seconds to react to a new email notification by activating the email application.
  • Recall time. Having dealt with the email, about 60 seconds is taken getting back to the work being done prior to the email disruption.

Clearly, when people process lots of emails, this time really adds up.


  • Jackson T. W., Dawson R. and Wilson D. (2003) Understanding email interactiom increases organizational productivity, Communications of ACM, 46 (8), 80-84.

Author: Ashish Gupta

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