The Effects of Multitasking on Operations Scheduling

Nicholas G. Hall, Joseph Y.T. Leung, Chung Lun Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


This study considers a typical scheduling environment that is influenced by the behavioral phenomenon of multitasking. Under multitasking, the processing of a selected job suffers from interruption by other jobs that are available but unfinished. This situation arises in a wide variety of applications; for example, administration, manufacturing, and process and project management. Several classical solution methods for scheduling problems no longer apply in the presence of multitasking. The solvability of any scheduling problem under multitasking is no easier than that of the corresponding classical problem. We develop optimal algorithms for some fundamental and practical single machine scheduling problems with multitasking. For other problems, we show that they are computationally intractable, even though in some cases the corresponding problem in classical scheduling is efficiently solvable. We also study the cost increase and value gained due to multitasking. This analysis informs companies about how much it would be worthwhile to invest in measures to reduce or encourage multitasking.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1248-1265
Number of pages18
JournalProduction and Operations Management
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Management Science and Operations Research
  • Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


  • cost and value of multitasking
  • multitasking
  • polynomial time algorithm
  • scheduling


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