College Student Work Habits, Interruptions, and Stress

Maureen Conard*, 0**, Robert Marsh***
* Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Connecticut, USA.
** Associate Professor, College of Education and Health Sciences, Touro University, California, USA.
*** Associate Professor, Department of Management, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Connecticut, USA.
Periodicity:February - April'2017


We see them every day, staring fervently at their phones, oblivious to other people and sometimes cars. Today's college student is constantly bombarded with interruptions and distractions from a variety of sources, and presumably is unable to focus on any task for any length of time. The purpose of this study was to explore the work habits of college students in a naturalistic education setting. The data indicated that college students had longer periods of uninterrupted work compared to studies of the knowledge workforce. We already know current knowledge workers, a generation raised almost without electronic interruptions, can hardly cope with a harried environment. This study found college students also seem to manage interruptions by delaying responses and batching them, and they did not seem to experience significant stress from interruptions.


Interruptions, Stress, College Students, Knowledge Workers, Generational Differences.

How to Cite this Article?

Conard, M., Barbour, M., and Marsh, R. (2017). College Student Work Habits, Interruptions, and Stress. i-manager’s Journal on Educational Psychology, 10(4), 1-11.


[1]. Bailey, B.P., and Konstan, J.A., (2006). “On the need for attention-aware systems: Measuring effects of interruption on task performance, error rate, and affective state”. Computers in Human Behavior, Vol. 22, No. 4, pp. 685-708.
[2]. Barbour, M., (2009). “Today's student and virtual schooling: The reality, the challenges, the promise”. Journal of Open, Flexible, and Distance Learning, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 5-25.
[3]. Battles, S.Y., (1998). Pitnev Bowes Study finds Messaging creates Greater Stress at Work. Pitney Bowes Inc.
[4]. Bolger, N., Davis, A., and Rafaeli, E., (2003). “Diary methods: Capturing life as it is lived”. Annual Review of Psychology, Vol. 54, No. 1, pp. 579-616.
[5]. Cades, D.M., Werner, N.E., Boehm-Davis, D.A., and Arshad, Z., (2010). “What makes real-world interruptions disruptive? Evidence from an office setting”. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, Vol. 54, No. 4, pp. 448-452. Sage Publications.
[6]. Carton, A.M., and Aiello, J.R., (2009). “Control and Anticipation of Social Interruptions: Reduced Stress and Improved Task Performance 1”. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, Vol. 39, No. 1, pp. 169-185.
[7]. Chisholm, C.D., Collison, E.K., Nelson, D.R., and Cordell, W.H., (2000). “Emergency department workplace interruptions: Are emergency physicians “interrupt-driven” and “multitasking”?” Academic Emergency Medicine, Vol. 7, No. 11, pp. 1239-1243.
[8]. Conard, M.A., and Marsh, R.F., (2010). “Single and multiple interruptions increase task completion time, but don't affect stress, pressure or flow”. Paper presented at the Association for Psychological Science Conference, Boston, MA.
[9]. Csikszentmihalyi, M., (2000). Beyond Boredom and Anxiety. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. (Original work published 1975).
[10]. Csikszentmihalyi, M., (1996). Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. New York: Harpers Collins.
[11]. Czerwinski, M., Horvitz, E., and Wilhite, S., (2004). “A diary study of task switching and interruptions”. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, ACM, pp. 175-182.
[12]. Erlandson, D.A., Harris, E.L., Skipper, B., and Allen, S.D. (1993). Doing Naturalistic Inquiry: A Guide to Methods. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publication Inc.
[13]. González, V.M., and Mark, G., (2004). “Constant, constant, multi-tasking craziness: Managing multiple working spheres”. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, ACM, pp. 113-120.
[14]. Howe, N., and Strauss, W., (2009). Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation. Vintage.
[15]. Hudson, J.M., Christensen, J., Kellogg, W.A., and Erickson, T., (2002). “I'd be overwhelmed, but it's just one more thing to do: Availability and interruption in research management”. Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 97-104. ACM.
[16]. Iqbal, S.T., and Horvitz, E., (2007). “Disruption and recovery of computing tasks: field study, analysis, and directions”. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 677-686. ACM.
[17]. Jett, Q.R., and George, J.M., (2003). “Work interrupted: A closer look at the role of interruptions in organizational life”. Academy of Management Review, Vol. 28, No. 3, pp. 494-507.
[18]. Jeong, S.H., and Hwang, Y. (2016). “Media multitasking effects on cognitive vs. attitudinal outcomes: A meta-analysis”. Human Communication Research, Vol. 42, No. 4, pp. 599-618.
[19]. Jones, C., and Healing, G., (2010). “Net generation students: Agency and choice and the new technologies”. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, Vol. 26, No. 5, pp. 344-356.
[20]. Lancaster, L.C., and Stillman, D., (2002). When generations collide, Who they are, Why they clash, How to solve the generational puzzle at work. New York: Collins Business.
[21]. LeCompte, M.D., and Preissle, J., (1993). Ethnography and Qualitative Design in Educational nd Research, 2 ed. San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
[22]. Levine, L.E., Waite, B.M., and Bowman, L.L., (2007). “Electronic media use, reading, and academic distractibility in college youth”. Cyber Psychology & Behavior, Vol. 10, No. 4, pp. 560-566.
[23]. Lin, B.C., Kain, J.M., and Fritz, C., (2013). “Don't interrupt me! An examination of the relationship between intrusions at work and employee strain”. International Journal of Stress Management, Vol. 20, No. 2, pp. 77.
[24]. Mark, G., Gudith, D., and Klocke, U., (2008). “The cost of interrupted work: More speed and stress”. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, pp. 107-110. ACM.
[25]. Marsh, R.F., and Conard, M.A., (2008). “A pull system for delegating knowledge work ” . Operations Management Research, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 61-68.
[26]. Monk, C.A., Trafton, J.G., and Boehm-Davis, D. A. (2008). “The effect of interruption duration and demand on resuming suspended goals”. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 299.
[27]. O'Conaill, B., and Frohlich, D., (1995). “Time space in the workplace: Dealing with interruptions”. In Conference Companion on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 262-263. ACM.
Prensky, M., (2001). “Digital natives, digital immigrants-Part II: Do they really think differently?” On the Horizon, Vol. 9, No. 6. Retrieved from http://www.marc, %20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf
[29]. Project Tomorrow (2015). Digital learning 24/7: Understanding technology — Enhanced learning in the lives of today's students. Retrieved from http://www.
[30]. Reeves, T.C., (2000). “Socially responsible educational technology research”. Educational Technology, Vol. 40, No. 6, pp. 19-28.
[31]. Reeves, T.C., (2008). “Do generational differences matter in instructional design?”. Paper presented to the Instructional Technology Forum. Retrieved from alArticle_ID.pdf
[32]. Reeves, T.C., and Oh, E.J., (2008). “Generation differences and educational technology research”. In J. M. Spector, M. D. Merrill, J. J. G. van Merrienboer, & M. P. Driscoll (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Educational rd Communications and Technology, 3 ed., pp. 295–303. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
[33].Reis, H. T., & Gable, S. L. (2000). “Event-sampling and other methods for studying everyday experience”. In H. T. Reis & C. M. Judd, (Eds.), Handbook of Research Methods in Social and Personality Psychology, pp. 190-222. New York: Cambridge University Press.
[34]. Richtel, M., (2010). “Growing up digital, wired for distraction”. The New York Times
[35]. Sleeper, M., Balebako, R., Das, S., McConahy, A.L., Wiese, J., and Cranor, L.F., (2013). “The post that wasn't: exploring self-censorship on Facebook”. In Proceedings of the 2013 Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, pp. 793-802. ACM.
[36]. Strauss, W., and Howe, N., (1991). Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584-2069. New York, NY: William Morrow and Company.
[37]. Tapscott, D., (2008). Grown up Digital: How the Net Generation is changing your World. New York: McGraw Hill.
[38].Voorveld, H. A. M. & van der Goot, M. (2013). “Age differences in media multitasking: A diary study”. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Vol. 57, No. 3, pp. 392-408.
[39]. Wong, D.L., and Baker, C.M., (1988). “Pain in children: Comparison of assessment scales”. Pediatric Nursing, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp. 9-17.
[40]. Zijlstra, F.R., Roe, R.A., Leonora, A.B., and Krediet, I. (1999). “Temporal factors in mental work: Effects of interrupted activities”. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, Vol. 72, No. 2, pp. 163-185.
If you have access to this article please login to view the article or kindly login to purchase the article

Purchase Instant Access

Single Article

North Americas,UK,
Middle East,Europe
India Rest of world
Pdf 35 35 200 20
Online 35 35 200 15
Pdf & Online 35 35 400 25

Options for accessing this content:
  • If you would like institutional access to this content, please recommend the title to your librarian.
    Library Recommendation Form
  • If you already have i-manager's user account: Login above and proceed to purchase the article.
  • New Users: Please register, then proceed to purchase the article.