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Multitasking Either Makes or Breaks Job Satisfaction: Study

New tool aims to help employers determine if worker will suffer burnout, researcher says

THURSDAY, Sept. 16, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- People who like to multitask may be less likely to suffer job burnout, according to researchers who developed a new tool to measure a person's preference for multitasking.

The Multitasking Preference Inventory could prove useful for employers who have a high worker turnover in jobs that require multitasking, said Elizabeth Poposki, an assistant professor of psychology in the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

"Multitasking has now become an important component of job performance for a growing number of professions -- air traffic controllers, 911 operators, taxi drivers, receptionists and countless others," she said in a university news release.

"We found that individuals who prefer to work on multiple tasks simultaneously enjoy the experience of multitasking more. This finding may sound like common sense, but if we have a tool to assess who will enjoy multitasking and who will not, we may be able to do a better job of selecting employees who will flourish in jobs requiring multitasking."

The study was published in the current issue of the journal Human Performance.

Multitasking requires the ability to rapidly shift attention between ongoing tasks, Poposki explained.

"Neuroscientists tell us that the human brain is incapable of doing two things at once. What we do when we multitask is switch back and forth between tasks in a manner similar to how a computer goes back and forth between programs," she explained.

Poposki said that, for her next study, she is planning to use the multitasking preference tool to try to predict turnover and job satisfaction in a group of emergency response workers, because their type of shift-work often requires multitasking.

More information

The American Psychological Association has more about workplace stress.

SOURCE: Indiana University, news release, Sept. 14, 2010
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