Mindful Polychronicity 1
Mindful Multitasking: Disentangling the Effect of Polychronicity
on Work-Home Conflict and Life Satisfaction
This study seeks to disentangle the effect of polychronicity on work-home conflict,
home-work conflict, and life satisfaction, by evaluating mindfulness as a moderator. We propose
that mindfulness moderates the relationship between polychronicity and work-home and home-
work conflict such that the relationship will be negative when mindfulness is high and positive
when mindfulness is low. Additionally, we propose that mindfulness moderates the relationship
between polychronicity and life satisfaction such that the relationship will be positive when
mindfulness is high and negative when mindfulness is low. A total of 138 academics throughout
India completed Slocombe and Bluedorn's (1999) polychronicity scale, Brown and Ryan’s
(2003) mindfulness attention and awareness scale, Diener et al.’s (1985) life satisfaction scale,
and Netemeyer et al.’s (1996) work-to-home and home-to-work conflict scales. We tested for
moderation effects using Hayes' (2013) PROCESS macro. Findings illustrate that higher levels
of mindfulness enhance the effects of polychronicity.
Keywords: polychronicity; mindfulness: work-home conflict; home-work conflict; life
Mindful Polychronicity 2
In today’s complex world, there is intense pressure to multitask to get everything done at
work (Appelbaum, Marchionni, & Fernandez, 2008) and at home (Ophir, Nass, & Wagner,
2009). Polychronicity – the preference for working on multiple tasks at the same time – might be
beneficial in such an environment because it enables individuals to accomplish more in less time
(Bluedorn, Kalliath, Strube, & Martin, 1999). However, a lack of sustained effort can perpetuate
mistakes and reduce the quality of work done (Weißbecker-Klaus, Ullsperger, Freude, &
Schapkin, 2017). To reconcile the conflicting findings of polychronicity research, we evaluate
trait-based mindfulness; the tendency to be attentive to and aware of what is taking place in the
present (Brown & Ryan, 2003). We propose that mindful multitasking facilitates decreased work-
home conflict and increased life satisfaction. This research contributes to polychronicity research
by offering a contingency perspective of the effects of multitasking. This research also
contributes to workplace mindfulness research by offering insight regarding the “being versus
doing” paradox (Lyddy & Good, 2017). The key question being, how is it possible to be
productive (doing) while doing nothing other than being present (being)?
Multitasking is stressful (Voydanoff, 2005) and can lead to low-quality task completion
(Weißbecker-Klaus et al., 2017) at work and home. Aligning with prior work (Kubicek &
Tement, 2016), we suggest that multitasking is associated with work-home conflict in both
directions. Specifically, we evaluate how non-work (e.g., family, home) stressors carryover to
interference with work (i.e.., home-work conflict) and how work stressors carryover to
interference with non-work (work-home conflict) (Sanz‐Vergel, Rodríguez‐Muñoz, & Nielsen,
2015). We suggest that mindful multitasking might mitigate work-home and home-work conflict.
Mindfulness ensures that individuals conduct tasks in ways that are calm, organized, and
Mindful Polychronicity 3
intentional (Good et al., 2016). Although some recent research suggests that mindfulness may
impair task motivation (Hafenbrack & Vohs, 2018), it has also been shown that mindfulness
facilitates improved self-regulation (Glomb, Yang, Bono, & Duffy, 2011). Thus, mindful
individuals might have a higher likelihood of juggling tasks in ways that are efficient and
productive (Dust, 2015). Additionally, mindfulness has been linked to improved working
memory (Good et al., 2016), which is associated with effective multitasking (König, Bühner, &
Mürling, 2005). We therefore propose:
Hypothesis 1: Mindfulness moderates the relationship between polychronicity and (a)
work-home conflict and (b) home-work conflict such that the relationship will be
negative when mindfulness is high and positive when mindfulness is low.
Individuals with a higher sense of control over their lives (Hofmann, Luhmann, Fisher,
Vohs, & Baumeister, 2014) and their time (Erdogan, Bauer, Truxillo, & Mansfield, 2012) have
higher life satisfaction. While polychronic individuals low in mindfulness may take on more
tasks than they can handle, polychronic individuals high in mindfulness have an enhanced
capacity to self-regulate and maintain a sense of control (Dust, 2015; Glomb et al., 2011), which
might facilitate higher life satisfaction. We therefore propose:
Hypothesis 2: Mindfulness moderates the relationship between polychronicity and life
satisfaction such that the relationship will be positive when mindfulness is high and
negative when mindfulness is low.
Sample and Procedure1
Our sample consists of faculty members at Universities throughout India. A description of
the study and survey link was sent using an academic ListServ database. The description stated
1 Data and procedures for this study are available at: http://hdl.handle.net/2374.MIA/6254.
Mindful Polychronicity 4
that: (a) the researchers were interested in how employees integrate work and non-work; (b) the
survey would last approximately seven minutes; (c) the responses would be anonymous and
confidential, and (d) the data would only be reported as overall trends. Participation was
voluntary and respondents did not receive any form of compensation. We received a total of 214
cases. We excluded a total of 70 cases where the respondent was only employed part-time. We
also excluded 6 cases where the respondent did not complete one or more of the study variables.
Thus, the final sample consisted of 1382 full-time employees who were predominantly male
(71%) with a mean age of 35.51 years, an average of 5.16 years of experience with their current
Participants first completed Slocombe and Bluedorn's (1999) five-item polychronicity
scale (α = .753; sample item: I like to juggle several activities at the same time), then Brown and
Ryan’s (2003) 15-item mindfulness attention and awareness scale (α = .93; sample item: I find
myself preoccupied with the future or the past (reverse coded)), then Netemeyer et al's. (1996)
five-item work-to-home conflict (α = .93; sample item: The demands of my work interfere with
my home and family life), and five-item home-to-work conflict (α = .89; sample item: I have to
put off doing things at work because of demands on my time at home) scales, and finally Diener
et al.’s (1985) five-item life satisfaction scale (α = .80; sample item: I am satisfied with my life).
For all scales participants responded using a seven-point response scale ranging from 1 =
Strongly Disagree to 7 = Strongly Agree. Information was collected for the number of years the
employee had worked for their current employer, whether the participant was married (69%), and
2 Given assumptions of a moderate anticipated effect size (i.e., .15), .80 statistical power, .05 probability level, and
five predictors (polychronicity, mindfulness, and three covariates), an a priori power analyses suggested obtaining a
minimum of 91 cases.
3 Reported Cronbach alphas are specific to this study.
Mindful Polychronicity 5
the number of children under 18 years old (mean = .63) to account for circumstances potentially
affecting the work-family interface.
To test our hypotheses, we used Hayes' (2013) PROCESS macro, which gives a statistical
significance test of the direct effect of polychronicity on each of the dependent variables at
various levels of the mindfulness (see Table 1). The analyses entail regressing each of the
dependent variables on polychronicity, mindfulness, the polychronicity x mindfulness interaction
term, and the covariates (i.e., tenure, married, number of children). The polychronicity x
mindfulness interaction was statistically significant for work-home conflict (b = -.161, t = -1.76,
p = .081), home-work conflict (b = -.19, t = -2.06, p = .042), and life satisfaction (b = .191, t =
2.57, p = .011). For work-home conflict, when mindfulness was above the mean, the effect of
polychronicity was negative, and this negative effect was strengthened as mindfulness increased
(+1 SD: b = -.353, p = .003; +2 SD: b = -.551, p = .008). Alternatively, as mindfulness fell below
the mean the effect of polychronicity was negative and not significant (-1 SD: b = .045, p = .
809). Similarly, for home-work conflict, the effect of polychronicity was negative and
statistically significant at higher levels of mindfulness (+1 SD: b = -.214, p = .068; +2 SD: b =
-.442, p = .030), and positive and not statistically significant at lower levels of mindfulness (-1
SD: b = .244, p = .185). For life satisfaction, the effect of polychronicity was positive and
statistically significant at very high levels of mindfulness (+1.5 SD: b = .226, p = .078; +2 SD: b
= .344, p = .040), and negative and statistically significant at lower levels of mindfulness (-1 SD:
b = -.360, p = .018; -2 SD: b = .595, p = .012).
We proposed that the relationship between polychronicity and work-home conflict and
Mindful Polychronicity 6
home-work conflict would be negative when mindfulness was high and positive when
mindfulness was low. Similarly, we proposed that the relationship between polychronicity and
life satisfaction would be positive when mindfulness was high and negative when mindfulness
was low. While the level of mindfulness did not dictate the direction of the relationships,
mindfulness did act as a moderating variable. Our findings show that at higher levels of
mindfulness the negative relationship between polychronicity and work-home and home-work
conflict was enhanced, but was neutralized at lower levels of mindfulness. Additionally, at higher
levels of mindfulness the positive relationship between polychronicity and life satisfaction was
enhanced, but was neutralized at lower levels of mindfulness. These findings extend
polychronicity research, highlighting mindfulness as a critical boundary condition. The findings
suggest that polychronicity can indeed be helpful, but only when multitasking is done mindfully.
These findings suggest an important consideration for scholars interested in polychronicity; that
individuals differ with respect to how they multitask. While some individuals might multitask
with skill and efficiency, enabling them to satisfy the demands of work, non-work, and life,
others might do so in ways that are counterproductive. This research also contributes to
mindfulness at work literature, highlighting a specific context whereby being and doing are not
adversaries, but capacities that act in concert (Lyddy & Good, 2017). Past research typically
takes a state-based perspective, arguing the merits of being versus doing as it relates to task
performance. This research takes a trait-based perspective, illustrating that individuals’ day-to-
day tendencies and preferences as it relates to being and doing affect the interface between work
and non-work. Practically speaking, these findings highlight yet another context in which
mindfulness training is beneficial: in efficiently managing the interrole conflict stemming from
work and non-work.
Mindful Polychronicity 7
Specific to limitations and future research, although common method bias is less of a
concern in moderation analyses (Siemsen, Roth, & Oliveira, 2010), future research might
consider longitudinal investigations. Additionally, we measure polychronicity, a trait-based
preference for multitasking, which is not the same as episodes of multitasking. Future research
might employ experiments or dairy studies to evaluate whether moment-to-moment multitasking
and mindfulness interact to increase satisfaction with work-home issues. Lastly, our findings
might be influenced by the ordering of variables within the survey. The order of the variables
was polychronicity, then mindfulness, then work-home conflict and home-work conflict, and
finally life satisfaction. Ordering is unlikely to affect trait-based scales (McCrae, Kurtz,
Yamagata, & Terracciano, 2011), such as polychronicity and mindfulness. However, there might
have been a priming effect when asking participants to first rate work-home and home-work
conflict and then rate life satisfaction. To limit such ordering effects, future research might
consider a scale counterbalancing procedure (Christensen, Johnson, & Turner, 2007).
Mindful Polychronicity 8
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Mindful Polychronicity 12
Table 1. Bootstrap Analyses of the Moderating Effects of Mindfulness on the relationships between
Polychronicity and Work-Home Conflict, Home-Work Conflict, and Life Satisfaction.
Work-Home Conflict Home-Work Conflict Life Satisfaction
Mindfulness Effect SE pEffect SE pEffect SE p
-2.0 SD .243 .288 .400 .472 .284 .098 -.595 .234 .012
-1.5 SD .144 .236 .542 .358 .232 .125 -.477 .191 .014
-1.0 SD .045 .186 .809 .244 .183 .185 -.360 .151 .018
-0.5 SD -.055 .141 .699 .130 .139 .352 -.243 .114 .035
Mean -.154 .107 .154 .015 .106 .886 -.126 .087 .151
+0.5 SD -.253 .097 .011 -.099 .096 .304 -.008 .079 .917
+1.0 SD -.353 .118 .003 -.214 .116 .068 .109 .096 .255
+1.5 SD -.452 .157 .005 -.328 .155 .034 .226 .127 .078
+2.0 SD -.551 .204 .008 -.442 .201 .030 .344 .166 .040
Note. N = 138. SE = Standard Error; SD =standard deviation.