Workers plagued by messaging overload

Workers plagued by messaging overload

Constant interruptions could put people off mobile applications

Modern forms of communication generate too many interruptions, according to a messaging industry analyst.

"Before email, instant messaging and other modern internet-based communications, most of us worked in ways that allowed us to focus on tasks," said David Ferris, an analyst at Ferris Research.

"When we wanted to get someone involved in a task, we thought twice before simply barging in and disrupting them by asking them to shift gears.

"The situation today is that we fire off an email request when the thought comes to us and efficiency suffers when someone is interrupted."

The analyst's views are backed up by a recent report which found that users do not want email and instant messaging to be available on their mobile phones.

However, Pranab Mookken, senior industry analyst for ICT markets at Frost & Sullivan, pointed out that the market for email and instant messaging on mobile phones would only grow.

"Applications like the mobile internet, with Yahoo launching services soon and Google hot on its heels, and instant messaging will be huge in the future," he said.

"It is just a matter of time before peer pressure or professional requirements ensure that you get on the service."

Ferris admitted that it was within users' power to control the interruptions. "You can turn off the cute sound or only explicitly check for new mail at sensible points in the working day," he suggested.

"However, as a practical matter, most people allow new mail to constantly interrupt them. The situation is even worse with instant messaging - it's even more intrusive."

Analyst Richi Jennings at Ferris Communications also pointed to a disturbing rise in the unreasonable expectations of people who send email.

"There's a culture in some organisations that any email message will elicit an instant reply," he said.

This impatience comes from the immediate nature of email, according to the analyst. The reasoning is that if it is simple and quick for a user to send a message, it should be simple and quick for the other person to reply.

"Impatient senders will follow up by phone or with another email message, even if it's obvious that what they're requesting will take a few hours or days to deliver," added Jennings.

Ferris concluded: "These electronic communication methods are wonderful. But somehow, we have to find ways of being less disruptive and more considerate of others while using these technologies. We haven't worked out how to do this yet. "