Managing currents of work: Multi-tasking among multiple collaborations
This research reports on a study of the interplay between multi-tasking and collaborative work. We conducted an ethnographic study in two different companies where we observed the experiences and practices of thirty-six information workers. We observed that people continually switch between different collaborative contexts throughout their day. We refer to activities that are thematically connected as working spheres. We discovered that to multi-task and cope with the resulting fragmentation of their work, individuals constantly renew overviews of their working spheres, they strategize how to manage transitions between contexts and they maintain flexible foci among their different working spheres. We argue that system design to support collaborative work should include the notion that people are involved in multiple collaborations with contexts that change continually. System design must take into account these continual changes: people switch between local and global perspectives of their working spheres, have varying states of awareness of their different working spheres, and are continually managing transitions between contexts due to interruptions.