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Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin. The Impact of Task Juggling on Workers' Speed of Job Completion

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  • Coviello, Decio
  • Ichino, Andrea
  • Persico, Nicola

Abstract

We show that task juggling, i.e., the spreading of effort across too many active projects, decreases the performance of workers, raising the chances of low throughput, long duration of projects and exploding backlogs. Individual speed of job completion cannot be explained only in terms of effort, ability and experience: work scheduling is a crucial “input” that cannot be omitted from the production function of individual workers. We provide a simple theoretical model to study the effects of increased task juggling on the duration of projects. Using a sample of Italian judges we show that those who are induced for exogenous reasons to work in a more parallel fashion on many trials at the same time, take longer to complete similar portfolios of cases. The exogenous variation that identifies this causal effect is constructed exploiting the lottery that assigns cases to judges together with the procedural prescription requiring judges to hold the first hearing of a case no later than 60 days from filing.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8085.

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Date of creation: Oct 2010
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8085

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Keywords: duration of trials; individual production function; work scheduling;

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  1. Marianne Bertrand & Antoinette Schoar, 2003. "Managing With Style: The Effect Of Managers On Firm Policies," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(4), pages 1169-1208, November.
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  6. James H. Stock & Motohiro Yogo, 2002. "Testing for Weak Instruments in Linear IV Regression," NBER Technical Working Papers 0284, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  8. Nick Bloom & John Van Reenen, 2006. "Measuring and Explaining Management Practices Across Firms and Countries," CEP Discussion Papers dp0716, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  9. Ichniowski, Casey & Shaw, Kathryn & Prennushi, Giovanna, 1997. "The Effects of Human Resource Management Practices on Productivity: A Study of Steel Finishing Lines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 291-313, June.
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  12. Laibson, David I., 1997. "Golden Eggs and Hyperbolic Discounting," Scholarly Articles 4481499, Harvard University Department of Economics.
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Cited by:
  1. Salvatore Capasso & Tullio Jappelli, 2011. "Financial Development and the Underground Economy," CSEF Working Papers 298, Centre for Studies in Economics and Finance (CSEF), University of Naples, Italy.
  2. Anzelika Zaiceva & Klaus Zimmermann, 2011. "Do ethnic minorities “stretch” their time? UK household evidence on multitasking," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 181-206, June.

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