Research-based recommendations for Amazon Mechanical Turk requesters, platform designers and workers

We surveyed 317 Amazon Mechanical Turk workers about their working practices and working preferences. We aimed to understand why workers on AMT multitask and what factors influence their multitasking behaviours. Based on our findings, we describe how workers could alter their working conditions to fit their multitasking preferences, and what requesters and platform designers can do in order to improve the productivity of the workers:

Recommendations for Requesters

  • Requesters should give workers plenty of time to complete the task.
  • Requesters should make sure their task/s is/are responsive.
  • Requesters should encourage workers to return to the task (or to AMT).
  • Requesters should pay well.


Recommendations for Platform Designers

  • Platform designers should allow workers to auto-save work in progress.
  • Platform designers should allow workers to set goals.
  • Platform designers should recontextualize the work on return from a switch.


Recommendations for Workers

  • Workers could consider dedicating a monitor to AMT work.
  • Workers could consider dedicating a quiet workspace for AMT work that is less likely to lead to interruptions.
  • Workers should keep an eye on times on AMT.


Each recommendation is described below:


Recommendations for Requesters

Give workers plenty of time to complete the task

Giving workers plenty of time to complete their task is beneficial for both workers who prefer multitasking, and for workers who prefer monotasking. We know from HCI research that when people are told to work quickly and accurately, they inevitably have to find equilibrium. Under serious time pressure, speed will be favored over accuracy.

Make sure the task is responsive

As many workers sometimes split their screen into multiple windows during AMT work, making sure that the content on the page will move with the page is important. For an optimal viewing experience, requesters should ensure that if workers are going to resize the windows, the HIT will resize accordingly

Encourage workers to return to the task (or to AMT)

When the workers are finished with a task (especially if the task is outside of AMT, e.g. a questionnaire in Qualtrics), requesters should make sure that they provide workers with a link to return to the AMT dashboard. In this way, workers can return to the platform in the event they get distracted.

Pay well

As pay can be quite low on AMT, workers can choose to work on multiple tasks at once as a way of generating a higher income in a shorter period of time. In our study, in terms of the data quality, workers who switched more did not perform worse than workers who avoided switching. Maybe the fact that the pay was good for workers in our study explains why workers were able to prioritize our task.


Recommendations for Platform Designers

Allow workers to auto-save work in progress

For anyone who switches between tasks, it is important that their work does not get lost. Auto-saving the work can ensure that workers who choose to switch rapidly between task will not lose their progress on the task. Knowing that 40% of the workers in our study worked in shared spaces, and might, therefore, get interrupted, it is important that their progress on the task(s) get(s) saved.

Allow workers to set goals

We recommend that platform designers build tools which allow workers to set goals for their work sessions Setting goals before starting a work session can help workers determine how much time they might want to spend on the working session, or how much money they would like to make in the session. Referring back to their goals during the day might lower any impulses to work on too many things at once.

Recontextualize the work on return from a switch.

After returning to a task after a long switch, workers could be reminded about what they have to do on the task (e.g., what the task is about, how much of the task they have remaining, how much money they have made so far, etc.). The workers could also be provided with information about when they have made the switch (and for how long).

Allow workers to take notes on task

Taking notes on tasks could enable workers to offload information about the task at hand right before making a switch. On return from the switch, the notes can act as a trigger for their delayed intentions.


Recommendations for Workers

Dedicating a monitor to AMT work

When asked what advice they would give about effective task management to someone just starting on AMT, workers in our study said that they would recommend to other workers to get a second monitor. Not everyone can afford a second screen, though–a personal constraint. Instead of having to buy new equipment a common alternative strategy seems to be tiling windows on the screen. This strategy allows the workers to achieve the same effect without the additional monitor.

Dedicating a quiet workspace for AMT work that is less likely to lead to interruptions

Our results suggest that respondents who worked on AMT from private spaces had good levels of focus, and that over half of the workers who work from a shared space would like to have a separate space in their home for uninterrupted AMT work. But not all workers would like to have a separate space for working on AMT or to eliminate interruptions altogether. For a large number of workers, being able to work on AMT from their homes provides them with the opportunity to be close to their families.

Rather than have participants try and change their environment, it might make more sense for a support tool to recommend different kinds of tasks to people working in noisy settings; filtering out tasks that require audio classification or deep engagement with text. The work adapts to the worker, rather than vice versa.

Keeping an eye on times

When asked what advice they would give about effective task management to someone just starting on AMT, a large number of the workers who had a preference for multitasking said that monitoring the time limits of the HITs is highly important to them. By monitoring the time limits of the HITs that they have in the queue, they can make sure that they work on every single one of the HITs, and that none of them will expire.


In the paper, we go into more details about the recommendations presented above on how we can support workers’ multitasking preferences, behaviours and habits.



As part of the same project:

Working settings of Amazon Mechanical Turk workers

Work management strategies of Amazon Mechanical Turk workers