Ok, so I’ll just check Twitter. And Sky News. And the weather. Oh I didn’t reply to that whatsapp message from earlier. Wait, what was it that I was actually going to do… oh yeah I was setting my alarm for the morning.
Life in the information age isnt easy. Smartphones provide constant streams and oh too tempting updates over endless apps and platforms. FOMO. We arrive at work in our open plan offices, pool messages from numerous sources, collate requests, comments and outstanding tasks into one to do list amongst the pop up messages, calls and ‘what’s the deadline for that submission’ or ‘have you seen my stapler’ verbal distractions .
Our lives, it seems, are one constant interruption.
Just occasionally we break free. That relaxing bliss when you board a flight and are forced to switch to flight mode, rendering yourself off grid for the duration. You can finish that book you’ve been trying to read, flick through the in flight magazine, or just let your thoughts settle whilst checking out some new music.
With over half commercial airlines expected to offer in flight wifi by 2022, the last sanctuary of uninterrupted bliss is being plucked from our clammy grasp. Hmpph.
We know we work better uninterrupted. The open plan office model is getting backlash for acoustic problems, germ spreading and distractions. Open plan itself isn’t the problem, but open plan alone isn’t the answer either.
An increasing number of offices are creating relaxation rooms for employees to mentally switch off and reboot. Quiet rooms where phones and technology are banned. In fact often you are greeted with just dim lighting, comfy lounge chairs, chaise longues or beds. Some offer headphones with relaxation music. A short pause to reflect, reset and reboot does wonders – and big business is taking note.
Mental health is a hot topic. The incessant feed of digital information, blurring of working hours and ‘open 24/7’ mentality means burnouts are on the rise and this is a real threat to productivity. High stress levels equals high staff turnover, high absenteeism and potentially higher rates of heart disease. In response, Meditation apps like Headspace have become a huge success, encouraging users to tune out and focus on breathing and relaxation techniques via guided audio. Now Nike are in on the act, teaming up with Headspace to offer ‘mindful guided runs’.
Mindfulness at work is a fast growing movement. Tuning out of life and into your soul for a few minutes cultivates awareness of the present moment, eliminating stressful distractions and promoting a calm focus in your daily life. It’s low cost for businesses and can help to ensure their most valuable assets, its employees, are healthy and happy.
Offices can make use of flexible space for yoga and meditation during down time. Rooms that often go unused can be redesigned at low cost as a quiet relaxation space, requiring little equipment or furniture.
This low investment can have big returns and I can only see this trend growing as the push to improve wellbeing at work continues. There will of course always be sceptics out there. To those I ask, would you want your accountant, or lawyer to be stressed and feeling constantly interrupted as they deal with your tax return or legal defence? Or would you prefer their calm, focused and undivided attention?
Until next time… Ben is Zen