Recover overnight? Work interruption and worker productivity

Xiqian Cai, Jie Gong, Yi Lu, Songfa Zhong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper investigates the effect of work interruption on workers’ subsequent productivity. We employ a data set of individual productivity and machine conditions, in which each worker faces the chance, on a daily basis, that her machine will break down randomly. Our analysis finds that compared to a workday with smooth production, experiencing a machine breakdown is associated with a 3.3 percentage point decline in the worker’s productivity the following day. We discuss possible explanations for the observed effect, including negative emotions, increased cautiousness in operating the machine, and proficiency loss. Our findings shed light on the importance of understanding and managing interruptions in the workplace, and contribute to a growing literature on the determinants of productivity at the micro level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3489-3500
Number of pages12
JournalManagement Science
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • Emotion
  • Labor supply
  • Productivity
  • Reference dependence
  • Work interruption

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Management Science and Operations Research


Dive into the research topics of 'Recover overnight? Work interruption and worker productivity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this