Jackson, T., Dawson, R. and Wilson
Communications of the ACM, 46(8), pp.80-84
Publication year: 2003


Electronic communication is becoming an integral part of the communication

structure within organisations, but the costs and benefits are not being assessed. The

aim of this research was to analyse the cost effectiveness of using email, to suggest

ways in which the cost effectiveness can be improved, and to discover if there is an

interrupt recovery time associated with an email interruption. This research was

mainly carried out at the Danwood Group which has just over 500 employees at 19

sites around the UK. The Danwood Group retails office equipment, predominately


As part of trying to understand email interactivity, research has been carried out to

determine if there is such a phenomenon as an interrupt recovery time for email and,

if there is, to discover if there is a “hard” cost associated with an email interruption.

DeMarco reported that the recovery time after a phone call interruption is at least 15

minutes, thus increasing the amount of time spent on interrupts a day (DeMarco T.

and Lister T. 1987). However, DeMarco’s research was carried out using software

developers as the subjects. The highly creative nature of a software developer’s job

means they are likely to require extra time to recover from an interrupt compared to

other job roles, hence the 15 minutes recovery time. So far, there has been no reported

empirical research into how long it takes to recover from an email interrupt.