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MobileHCI 2014 Doctoral Consortium

  1. 1. 23rd SEPTEMBER 2014 MobileHCI 2014 Doctoral Consortium Marta E. Cecchinato Email Management & Work-Home Boundaries @martacecchinato
  2. 2. Image source:
  3. 3. Structure of today’s talk: 1. Research question and motivation 2. Quick overview of my research a. Approach motivated by literature b. 3-year plan 3. Initial findings and contributions
  4. 4. Are you aware of how many times you’ve checked your emails today and where were you?? Are you satisfied with your email practices? But first... my take home message: Image sourceL
  5. 5. Real world problem
  6. 6. Email Overload: “Users’ perception that their own email use has gotten out of control” Research motivation Dabbish and Kraut (2006, p.431) Research motivation
  7. 7. Overall Research Question: Can technology make it easier for people to manage their email, so as to reduce email overload? Image source:
  8. 8. Literature review summary • Different email management techniques that may lead to email overload • Different suggested solutions, but no agreement on their efficacy (other than “check less!”) Differences: • Individual preferences (filing, workflow approaches, use of notifications, reasons for deferring replies,…) • Context-specific (e.g. work demands)
  9. 9. Reflection: why and how? Stage-based Behaviour Change Theories Personal Informatics Model Reflection 1. Pre- contemplation 2. Contemplation 3. Preparation 4. Action 5. Maintenance 1. Preparation 2. Collection 3. Reflection 4. Action 1. Description 2. Reflective description 3. Dialogic reflection 4. Transformative reflection 5. Critical reflection Prochaska, J. O., & Velicer, W. F. (1997). The transtheoretical model of health behavior change. American journal of health promotion, 12(1), 38-48. Chicago Li, I., Dey, A., & Forlizzi, J. (2010, April). A stage- based model of personal informatics systems. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 557- 566). ACM. Fleck, R., & Fitzpatrick, G. (2010, November). Reflecting on reflection: framing a design landscape. In Proceedings of the 22nd Conference of the Computer-Human Interaction Special Interest Group of Australia on Computer-Human Interaction (pp. 216-223). ACM.
  10. 10. Digital epiphany 1. Tracking 2. Reflecting 3. Epiphany: - Change - Acceptance “Having an insight about one of their digital behaviours, […] The realization about this personal habit is the result of using a digital PI tool” . (Cox, Bird, & Fleck, 2013, p.2)
  11. 11. GOAL 1 – understand users GOAL 2 – explore existing tools GOAL 3 – designing and evaluating a tailored tool 1st Year 2nd Year 3rd year
  12. 12. Image source: Research Questions: 1. How do people use email in their personal and work domains across devices? 2. Do they have different strategies depending on device used and/or domain? Methods: Study 1 - The interview study Study 2 - The email game study GOAL 1: Understanding email behavioural differences and the impact of email on work-home boundaries
  13. 13. Image source: Research Questions: 1. What tools currently exist that aim to help people deal with their email? 2. Are they effective in helping people change their email behaviour? Methods: Study 3 - Tool review Study 4 - Performance and longitudinal study GOAL 2: Understanding email tools and their efficacy
  14. 14. • Designing and evaluating a personalisable and customizable tool • that accommodates email individual and contextual differences and • can help reflect on habits so that a satisfactory work-home balance can be achieved. Goal 3: Designing a better email tool
  15. 15. Study 1 Exploratory study to understand how people use emails across social domains and across devices? Interviews + Work-Life Indicator survey 16 participants (5 males, 9 academic staff, 7 professional services staff) MOBILE HCI 2014 WORKSHOP SOCIO-TECHNICAL PRACTICES AND WORK-HOME BOUNDARIES
  16. 16. Study 1 – Initial findings Permeable boundaries (academics) • Work/personal email on same mobile app • Symmetrical interruptions work-home Rigid Boundaries (prof. services) • Asymmetrical interruptions work-home • Control micro-role transitions with micro- boundaries 1 2 3 4 5 Academics (N=9) Prof. Serv. (N=6) Means NonWork Interrupting Work Work Interrupting NonWork Boundary Control Family Identity Work Identity
  17. 17. “I would never ever check my [work] email outside of work, purposely. It's not the kind of job that I think about when I’m not here. I'm not allowed to work from home" – P13, Female, PS. Rigid boundary management Permeable boundary management “The first check is probably right after I woke up, I will check everything that has come in the night [on phone]. […] I will probably have another look once I'm outside the house, so during my commute time I will check once again. And once I'm in my office, I don't have any specific rule, it's really case by case. […] Once I’m home […] I have a second work shift after [my son] goes to bed until quite late in the night” – P15, Male, A.
  18. 18. “I get up, check my email in bed, check my email on the toilet, check my email downstairs, maybe whilst I'm having breakfast, walk to work, generally don't check my email while I'm actually walking, when I'm waiting for the train, on the train, maybe in the lift getting up to work. Maybe then at work, then on the train on the way home, in front of the TV, during dinner, yeah, that's about everything I think.” – P5, Male, A. Boundary challenges: overload and availability
  19. 19. Micro-boundary email practices: “A strategy to limit the effects of micro-role transition caused by cross- domain technology mediated interruptions.” Through accounts: - one per role - Creating dedicated folders from one domain in another domain account with automatic filtering Through devices: - personal only on smartphone, work only on desktop computer. - Deliberately removing work email from phone during time off, e.g. on holiday; Through software: - different apps on smartphone for personal and work email Boundary Management
  20. 20. 1. Professional context has a large impact on email practices: when, where and how people manage emails and the impact these have on work- home boundaries. 1. We see a growing trend in the use of micro-boundary strategies to separate work and personal emails 1. People with more permeable boundary management styles might find it useful to create micro-boundaries within devices to help them cope with micro-role transitions between work and personal domains, and to limit work-home interference. Contributions [WP1] Cecchinato, M., Cox, A. L., & Bird, J. (2014). “I check my emails on the toilet”: Email Practices and Work-Home Boundary Management. MobileHCI Workshop Socio-Technical Practices and Work- Home Boundaries. [WP2] Cecchinato, M.E., Bird, J. & Cox, A.L. (2014). “Personalised email tools: a solution to email overload? CHI’14 Workshop Personalised Behaviour Change Technologies
  21. 21. @martacecchinato

Editor's Notes

  • Society reshaping around tech. – mobile allows always online, e.g. email

    Email is great communication tool, BUT expectation (even sold as service!)

    This has impact on WLB… french labour agreement, daimler benz, google “dublin goes black”
  • Email research for 30 yrs. Complaints soon after, 20yrs ago ‘email overload’. Definition evolved:
    Ways of using email (communication, task m., archive
    Status overload and type overload -> personal/work email

    Two shifts: not just work, but also personal email AND considering email not just a work problem.

    We’ve been aware of email overload for almost 20 years. Much has been done on understanding people’s email habits especially on desktop computers, but little attention has focused on investigating how habits change on mobile devices or through cross-device interaction. From the way in which advances in technology are re-shaping society, I hypothesise that the problem of email overload is now exacerbated by cross-device interaction A better understanding of this will be one of my contributions .
     One of 2 sets of contributions?

  • Having such premises, My overall contribution will be to understand how technology, instead of being treated as a problem, can be integrated as a solution to email overload. 
    Can technology make it easier for people to manage their email so as to reduce email overload?

    Most research: single device use of email, no distinction between prof groups (with exceptions of managers)
  • I’m not going to go into detail here, but…
    -NO ONE SIZE FITS ALL (check less?)
    - Strong individual and context-specific work demands
  • So I’ve decided to take a specific approach to the problem and focus on REFLECTION.
    Reflection is important for creating the motivation to change behavior.
    WHY: In stage-based behavior change theories, behavior change is described as a PROCESS that requires moving through a certain amount of phases. The initial phases of these theories include raising AWARENESS on one’s behavior in order to develop those motivations to change. Later phases focus on putting behavior in action and maintaining it.  
    HOW: There are several ways to reflect, and one way to reflect is through PERSONAL INFORMATICS, which are a particular set of tools that quantify users behavior. Personal informatics are used according to a stage-based model (preparation, collection, integration, reflection and action) to make sense of personal experiences by recognizing trends and patterns that then inform an action.
    So to recap, behavior change theories explain why it is important to reflect and personal informatics presents a way in which we might encourage reflection.
    REFLECTION in itself is a process based on collected data/information that moves from a mere description, to a sense-making of relationships between data, to a re-consideration of events based on the new insights gained, to a final more general context considered.

    A digital epiphany is based on three steps:
    having an epiphany/realization that might or might not lead to a change in attitude. (INITIAL STAGE OF BEHAVIOUR CHANGE).
  • So I’ve layed out a plan to tackle the issue of email overload in a work where cross-device interaction impact our work-life balance
    Understand user
    Understand tools
    Design a tool that takes into account those individual differences and context-specifics
  • Study 1 - The interview study investigates the strategies people have for dealing with email, especially on multiple devices; the ways in which they use multiple accounts; and the impacts on boundary management.
    Study 2 - The email game study explores the strategies people use for prioritising which email to deal with and when. It will investigate which factors (value, effort required, urgency, curiosity) people use to help them prioritise one email over another. Devices used to answer will be tracked and correlated with emerging strategies.
  • STUDY 3 The review study will investigate how the tools work and what can be said about these tools from a theoretical perspective, in particular in relation to behaviour change theories.
    STUDY 4 The performance and longitudinal study will investigate instead how these tools are employed or not and what is their added value, if any. In addition, it will evaluate if people perceive them as a useful resource to reduce email overload, comparing them with findings from interviews with existing users.
  • Current ideas include developing a tool that provides people with opportunity to measure their level of email overload, collect and reflect on their own data (according to personal informatics model) and then making recommendations of strategies they might try, given their current behaviour and number of emails. The tool will be designed using participator design and focus groups with past participants and evaluated in the wild as an explorative way to see how users engage with it, collecting both qualitative and quantitative measures.
  • So far I’ve looked at goal 1 and have conducted the first study TO LOOK AT EMAIL MANAGEMENT PRACTICES ACROSS DEVICES IN 2 PROF. GROUPS AT THE SAME UNIVERSITY.

    Interviews and Work-Life indicator scale

    Preliminary results are found in workshop paper.
  • We found that there are actually differences in prof. groups (no one else has made this distinction)
    -permeable boundaries (academics)
    work/personal email on same app phone
    allow for symmetrical interruptions between W-NW and NW-W
    -rigid boundaries (prof serv)
    control for micro-role transitions (shifts from one role to another). They do so thru MICRO-BOUNDARY PRACTICES to limit impact of these transitions caused by technology mediated interruptions.

    - Notifications: always on on computers, mostly disabled on phone, especially in those who checked both work and personal accounts suggesting they were trying to limit the interruptions and control for micro-role transitions
  • Professional services staff tend to only look at work email whilst at work – they have more rigid boundaries.

    We did find some evidence of individual differences here though as 2 of the professional services staff had boundary management styles that were more typical of academics, and two academics has boundary management styles that were more like the professional services staff.
  • Our interviews indicate smartphones can interfere even in the most private of moments, favouring those asymmetrical interruptions between work and non-work that our questionnaire highlights. Smartphones are used to check emails first thing in the morning when waking up or as P5 admits, even in the bathroom:

  • Next study will look at email practices in a more high-pressure environment

    How practices are applied into the wild, sending emails and expecting replies to study deferral behaviours across devices.

    Unfortunately plan didn’t go as expected and couldn’t report findings from this study today.
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