In today’s day and age, it is no surprise that we spend much of our time multitasking. From catching up on email in the coffee line to cooking dinner in the middle of Zoom meetings, we are gradually learning to meet the unprecedented demands of our time. However, this newfound expectation of multitasking comes with a steep price tag on our mental wellbeing, if not managed properly. In the following study, Weintraub et al. (2018) posit mindfulness as a tool to better multitask, remedy potential work-home conflict dynamics, and foster greater satisfaction with life at large.
In their study of 138 academics across India, Weintraub et al. (2018) assessed subjects on a variety of scales, assessing reports of polychronicity, mindfulness, life satisfaction, work-to-home conflicts, and home-to-work conflicts. Weintraub and his colleagues hypothesized that individuals with higher mindfulness would experience lower intensity of home-to-work and work-to-home conflicts in the assessments. They also hypothesized that individuals with high mindfulness would report greater life satisfaction.
Polychronicity: an individual’s preference to engage in multitasking
Work-to-home conflict: stressors from work that carry over into the home
Home-to-work conflict: stressors from the home that carry over into work
Scale sample items
Slocombe & Bluedorn’s (1999) polychronicity scale: “I like to juggle several activities at the same time”
Brown & Ryan’s (2003) mindfulness, attention, and awareness scale: “I find myself preoccupied with the future or the past”
Netemeyer et al.’s (1996) work-to-home conflict scale: “The demands of my work interfere with my home and family life”
Netemeyer et al.’s (1996) home-to-work conflict scale: “I have to put off doing things at work because of demands on my time at home”
Dieneret et al.’s (1985) life satisfaction scale: “I am satisfied with my life”
Through their research, Weintraub and his colleagues found that individuals with high mindfulness experienced less work-to-home and home-to-work conflicts when multitasking. They also found a positive relationship between mindfulness and life satisfaction. All mentioned findings were statistically significant; however, it is important to note that in individuals with lower reports of mindfulness, there was no statistical significance in the relationship between work-to-home conflicts, home-to-work conflicts, and multitasking.
As we navigate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the lines between work and home continue to blur, it is important to consider the ways in which we engage in our multitasking behaviors. How can we more proactively engage in mindfulness? Weintraub and his colleagues suggest we consider the balance between being and doing. To be fully present in the tasks at hand, to allow space for breaks, to receive ample rest – perhaps there are benefits to be reaped.
Weintraub, Jared & Pattusamy, Murugan & Dust, Scott. (2018). Mindful multitasking: Disentangling the effect of polychronicity on work-home conflict and life satisfaction. The Journal of Social Psychology. 159. 10.1080/00224545.201