Multitasking in work-related situations and its relevance for occupational health and safety: Effects on performance, subjective strain and physiological parameters

Hiltraut M. Paridon, Marlen Kaufmann

Abstract


In the area of occupational health and safety multitasking becomes more and more important. Studies have shown that multitasking leads to a decrease in performance. However, studies often try to identify underlying mental mechanisms. Multitasking and its consequences for occupational health and safety are rarely considered. In this study, the effects of multitasking were investigated using two work-related scenarios. Changes were assessed in relation to three areas: performance values, subjective strain and physiological parameters. Data was also analyzed with respect to possible gender and age differences. Due to a focus on people of working age, the participants were aged between 21 and 60 years old. Multitasking led to reduced performance and increased levels of subjective strain. Changes in physiological parameters appear to be dependent on the type of task. There were no gender and virtually no age differences regarding the single-task compared to the multitasking condition. Overall, the data suggests that multitasking in the workplace should be minimized, at least for certain tasks, in order to prevent mistakes and potential accidents as well as mental strain. Further research should be carried out to investigate the long-term effects of multitasking on performance and health.

Keywords


multi-tasking; occupational health and safety; work-related scenarios; gender differences; age differences

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https://doi.org/10.5964/ejop.v6i4.226