Emotional Footprints of Email Interruptions

Working in an environment with constant interruptions is known to affect stress, but how do interruptions affect emotional expression? Emotional expression can have significant impact on interactions among coworkers. We analyzed the video of 26 participants who performed an essay task in a laboratory while receiving either continual email interruptions or receiving a single batch of email. Facial videos of the participants were run through a convolutional neural network to determine the emotional mix via decoding of facial expressions. Using a novel co-occurrence matrix analysis, we showed that with batched email, a neutral emotional state is dominant with sadness being a distant second, and with continual interruptions, this pattern is reversed, and sadness is mixed with fear. We discuss the implications of these results for how interruptions can impact employees' well-being and organizational climate.