'Nano Transitions' Are the Answer to Staying Focused (and Happy) Working from Home


Coining a new term that everyone uses is difficult to do-on the CGU campus, one of the most successful practitioners is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, whose use of the word \”flow\” to describe a psychological state of concentration has turned into a common household expression today.

Now his colleague M. Gloria González-Morales and her students Megan Benzing, Alyssa Birnbaum, and Chloe Darlington have come up with another term that completely describes many people's experiences throughout the pandemic-\”nano transitions.\”

What are these?

You probably understand what a nano transition is even if you haven't used this term before. You've definitely experienced a nano transition if, working at home, you have been pulled away from your computer to get the mail, alter the laundry, let the dog out, or make lunch for your children.

González-Morales and her team make use of this term in their study from the barrier separating work in the remainder of one's life, which has become increasingly porous for many since quarantine started in March 2021.

The business-focused news site Quartz At Work spoke with González-Morales this spring about her team's study of these transitions and how they connect with much larger transitions in people's lives, like retirement or changing jobs, as well as an area of psychological study known as \”boundary theory.\”

Some might say \”nano transitions\” are only a diplomatic method to refer to those annoying interruptions that occur during one's workday, but that is not it. González-Morales cautions against considering these experiences in that way. Nano transitions, she told Quartz At the office, can positively influence our way of life in your own home.

Taking a minute to go surfing and buy groceries in order to post an update on Facebook or chase a toddler around the house-to qualify as a \”nano transition,\” she says, the interruption must be autonomous, intentional, and regulated, or \”air,\” a clever acronym!-gives our brains some much-needed relief, she says, which small shifts of attention are in fact essential to staying productive and avoiding burnout.

The pandemic and social distancing have formulated an intense focus on the way we organize our time and tasks in your own home.

The expression that they’ve coined, points out González-Morales, who's also an affiliate editor at Work & Stress journal, refers to tasks \”that would have been seen as counterproductive before the pandemic.\” These tasks have been frowned upon by supervisors and discouraged in the office.

But they really should not be. The pandemic and social distancing have formulated an intense focus on the approach we take to organize our time and tasks in your own home, and González-Morales argues these tiny shifts in attention during the day are actually the keys to staying productive and avoiding burnout. Nano transitions give workers something important: a sense of control.

\”Supervisors and managers need to understand that people took agency over their workows as well as their work life,\” she told Quartz At the office. Working from home \”has given them the concept that, 'Yeah, I can manage my work not based on who's watching or whether coworkers exist.'\”

Visit here for more about González-Morales and her team's work on nano transitions at Quartz At Work and for much more about a Quartz At Work panel featuring González-Morales on how to get re-engaged with work when morale is running low. (Note: Readers must subscribe to see the full articles.)

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