For many people, it didn't take long to recognize that there are few things more challenging than trying to get work done at home. Home is where you're supposed to do other things, like enjoy time as a family, get the kids ready for school, do laundry, and relax. Now, home is where we do pretty much everything. We don't even send our kids off to school; that happens at home too.
What started out as a short-term experiment back in March, to see if we could continue to get work done while sheltering at home for a few weeks until the Covid-19 pandemic passed, has become something else entirely. The result has been people trying to shift from working from home as a stopgap solution, to figuring out whether this is sustainable.
Part of that struggle is the realization that the lack of separation between the work and not-work parts of our lives is very challenging in ways no one anticipated. There's almost no such thing as work-life balance when it all happens in the same place. Unless you're intentional about creating boundaries.
The two biggest challenges that I continue to hear from people are distractions and burnout. Interestingly, the two aren't all that different. Life is full of distractions, and overcoming the things that try to steal away our attention can get exhausting very quickly.
Mindfulness is the ability to be more present and to be less distracted. And we spend, on average, close to 50 percent of our life distracted, lost in thoughts about the past and the future. Most of us would like to be more present more of the time, because when we are, we feel more relaxed: We tend to have a common mind and a clearer mind. But it's really hard just to say to someone, just be more mindful, just be more present, just be less distracted. So we need a tool and an exercise in which to train ourselves in mindfulness.
Just to be clear, 50 percent is half of our lives. Half of your life is a lot of time being distracted. And it affects us in very real ways. It results in stress, difficulty going to sleep at night, and even physical health issues. Never mind that that's a lot of time that could be spent on, well, anything productive.
The key, at least according to Puddicombe, is that we need training. More than that, we need tools in place to train ourselves in mindfulness. To that end, meditation (Headspace is a meditation app, after all) is a tool you can use to train yourself.
And before you dismiss the idea because, well, it's meditation and you're not into that, there's science. According to the company: "In 25 published studies in some of the leading mindfulness peer-reviewed journals, Headspace has been shown to have favorable outcomes of interventions, including reduced stress and anxiety, decreased negative emotions, and increased resilience."
That includes research that shows that using Headspace for 30 days reduces stress by a third. The company has even launched a partnership with Microsoft, that allows Microsoft Teams users to access meditation exercises during a feature the company calls, "Virtual Commute."
The bottom line is really quite simple. Even when we get past the pandemic, things won't ever look like they did before. Working remotely is here to stay, which means that it's time to start figuring out how to get our lives back in balance. Or, at least, be a little less distracted.