Why, over the last two decades, has American Management prodded and badgered workers into multitasking ? I don't think Mantell ever addresses this question in her article, excerpted below. On the other hand, personal experience and observation lead me to believe that Management's main goal was to squeeze more work out of fewer people, for their greater glory, and, of course, profit.
* * *
There’s growing evidence that multitasking may be hurting productivity and actually making workers worse thinkers — and businesses need to re-examine goals in this area.
With the ubiquity of mobile devices and other communications technology, many workers are expected to multitask, with some employees taking pride in their perceived ability to switch between complex tasks. But all this multitasking is putting workers, as well as their employers, at risk, experts say.
“It’s unequivocally the case that workers who are doing multiple things at one time are doing them poorly,” said Clifford Nass, director of the Communication Between Humans and Interactive Media Lab at Stanford University.
In a 2009 study, Nass and other researchers found that heavy media multitaskers are “more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli,” and were worse at switching between tasks, likely because of their lesser ability to ignore irrelevant information.
From an employer’s point of view, one of the most worrying effects may be the trouble that chronic multitaskers have focusing.
“They are seduced by irrelevancy. They are constantly distracting themselves. They will look for distraction even when no such distraction exists,” Nass said. “We are creating a culture that encourages workers to be less effective, handle information poorly and have a tougher time in social relationships. What does the workforce look like where people can’t pay attention, where people can’t think deeply, and where people lack emotional skills? It’s a pretty scary world.”
Troubles can start when individuals try to work simultaneously on more than one complex task. Complex tasks require some reflection or mindfulness, said Earl Miller, a professor of neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“Anything that involves upgrading information requires consciousness, and that’s where the limited bandwidth comes in,” Miller said.