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Task Variety in Professional Service Work: When It Helps and When It Hurts

Avgerinos, E; Gokpinar, B; (2018) Task Variety in Professional Service Work: When It Helps and When It Hurts. Production and Operations Management , 27 (7) pp. 1368-1389. 10.1111/poms.12874. Green open access

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Abstract

In a wide range of professional service firms, individuals perform a variety of tasks which are highly cognitive and knowledge intensive yet repetitive in nature, providing significant opportunities for learning. In addition, individuals in such environments tend to enjoy considerable discretion in managing when and how they perform their tasks. In light of these observations, we investigate task allocation and timing strategies that may enhance or inhibit learning and productivity for professional service workers. Specifically, we focus on the role of task variety. We use a detailed dataset of 3273 coronary artery bypass surgeries in a private European hospital over 7 years to examine the effect of concurrent and non‐concurrent exposure to task variety on learning and productivity on a focal task. We find that while concurrent exposure to variety has a positive impact on focal productivity, non‐concurrent exposure to variety has a negative impact on it. Our results also suggest that short‐term exposure to variety amplifies these relationships.

Type: Article
Title: Task Variety in Professional Service Work: When It Helps and When It Hurts
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1111/poms.12874
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1111/poms.12874
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: task variety, learning, productivity, task timing
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > UCL School of Management
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1575072
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