The problem of email and disruptions

A subtler factor arose as an unexpected side effect of the introduction of “productivity-enhancing” networked personal computers to professional life. As the economist Peter G. Sassone observed in the early 1990s, personal computers made administrative tasks just easy enough to eliminate the need for dedicated support staff — you could now type your own memos using a word processor or file expenses directly through an intranet portal. In the short term, these changes seemed to save money. But as Sassone documents, shifting administrative tasks to high-skilled employees led to a decrease in their productivity, which reduced revenue — creating losses that often surpassed the amount of money saved by cuts to support staff. He describes this effect as a diminishment of “intellectual specialization,” and it’s a dynamic that’s not spared higher education, where professors spend an increasing amount of time dealing with the administrative substrate of their institutions through electronic interfaces. 

Source: Is Email Making Professors Stupid? – The Chronicle of Higher Education (Google Cache)

Although a lot of the article talks about the loss productivity due to interruptions, the article spells out the some of the costs when professors lose support staff. I always think about this when I see teachers spending time at the copier. Not that they are using the copier, but the fact that it would be more productive for the district to use support staff or aides to do some of these tasks.

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