Why Meditation is a Powerful Tool for Remote Workers, with Eric J. Gerritsen

Gabriela Molina

Eric Gerritsen is the co-founder of meditahere. He is also the founder of Imperial Yellow Ventures Inc; a venture development company focused on emerging opportunities in the yoga, meditation, and wellness industries. Eric has over 20 years of experience as an internet business development executive, growing media, software, and internet technology companies across borders.

Eric Gerritsen

Read the transcript

Luis:

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to another episode of the DistantJob Podcast. I am your host Luis, as usual. In this podcast that’s all about building and leading some remote teams. And my guest today is Eric Gerritsen. Eric is the co-founder of meditatehere.com. Eric, thank you for being on the show.

Eric Gerritsen:

Good to be with you, Luis.

Luis:

I’m very interested into talking about meditation and remote work because I’ve actually been an on and off meditator for the past, I think it’s 15 years now. I think that a lot of people associate remote work with an immediate uptick on their wellbeing. There’s reasons for that, of course. But I think that there’s the part we don’t hear so much about is the people that get into a remote work situation and get overwhelmed and stop having boundaries between life and work and all of that. So I think we have a lot of ground to cover in this interview, but first I want you to tell me about your story, about your relationship with remote work, how it influenced your career and then the venture that brings you here today.

Eric Gerritsen:

Wonderful. Good. Maybe start at the beginning. So we started meditatehere.com almost three years ago, pre-pandemic. And that was really out of an interest with myself and my co-founder in meditation, which was more personal and casual, but we started talking more deeply, we worked together and talking about modern work and the ups and downs of modern work life. We certainly identified a lot of, let’s call it discontent and cultural poor fit in terms of what people want to get out of their lives and the working environments that they operate in. So we had an idea to bring meditation into the work world. So we opened a meditation studio in the best office building in Victoria, British Columbia, where I live, and started seeing what happened. And it was really quite remarkable. It was amusing because we had this meditation studio with 20 seats in it, cushions right in the lobby area of this Class A building and people would walk by in their heels and their suits and so on and look inside and peek in and wonder what was going on in there.

Eric Gerritsen:

Long story short, we… Very quickly HR leaders from the companies in this large tower that we were based in, came down to us and said, “Okay, what’s going on in here? This looks really terrific. My people need this. How do we get going?” And so on. So that immediately led to an insight that we were onto something, that there was a need, both from an HR point of view and a personal point of view for people to come down and check this stuff out. So we did that for a bunch of months and it was off to a good start. And then the pandemic hit. So literally seven months in, eight months in to that studio, the pandemic hit. Of course, couldn’t be in a group and whatnot so we had to close that down. And we immediately shifted everything over to online. And so we started building online products and services for meditation.

Eric Gerritsen:

Again, always targeting the work world and then everything really accelerated because as we all went through the pandemic over those two years, a lot of things happened, including part of the reason we’re here today talking, a massive transfer of people from office towers into remote working environments. As you well know, that was an incredible shift. And sometimes when I think about this… If you look at the history of work, in my view there’s two big events. There’s the Industrial Revolution where people moved off farms and into factories. And then there’s what happened over the last two years. Literally worldwide, hundreds of millions of people forced in many ways to work from home. But of course, what that’s done is create a profound culture shift in how people think about work. I’m sure you would agree. It’s a very, very wonderful thing. And a lot of people have found a better way to move forward in their work life.

Eric Gerritsen:

Our angle into it, recognizing this massive shift was “Okay. There are still the same issues that people had in working in office towers, in their home working environments.” And those things include stress, anxiety, loneliness, and isolation. And a particular loneliness and isolation in the home working environment has become a thing. I don’t think we all yet fully understand it all, but these were the phenomena that we were recognizing. And as we talked to corporate leaders, these are the needs that they were expressing.

Eric Gerritsen:

So long story short, that’s where we’ve arrived at today, which is we very recently launched our latest product, which is a free app designed specifically with remote workers in mind. We can get into it a little bit later, what that means, but that is out on the market now and being distributed and getting a good reception. And it’s specifically around that notion of targeting those home working users, helping them with stress, anxiety, loneliness, and isolation, and helping them enjoy an even better work life. Because as you recognize at the top here, the remote working environment became a very good thing for a lot of people, but there are also downsides to it. And those are part of the ones that we want to help them with.

Luis:

I do want to dive into that and why remote workers, but I also want to talk a bit about how you built this business. You used to have a room studio with instructors, I assume, et cetera. And then you had to pivot all of that to online. So how was that transformation? How did that transformation go? How did you organize that? And eventually you built an app, which I’m assuming you also built online. That’s also probably an interesting story.

Eric Gerritsen:

Like so many things during the pandemic, a lot of us, all of us really, had to think creatively about what did we think we were doing and who did we think we were serving. And what models were we going to use and then quickly adapting that. And so that’s what we did. We’ve discovered some really fascinating things along the way. Let’s just talk maybe a little bit about meditation. Meditation, to begin with, people often think is classic image of a Tibetan monk in a cave alone, solo and so on. But if you meditate and have done things like retreats and so on, you come to recognize that meditating in a group is actually a very effective thing to do, as odd as it may sound because people often think it’s a purely solo effort, but there’s a lot of power that comes in meditating in a group.

Eric Gerritsen:

So we discovered that the studio model where people were meditating with a leader in a group, that model has transferred to online. So initially we weren’t working with an app, we were working with a different platform, but we were doing group Zoom meditation. It was a big question mark for us, could that studio environment, the group environment transfer into a Zoom environment? And the really wonderful understanding is that yes, it does. That’s been a very powerful thing. And we look forward to amplifying that over time.

Eric Gerritsen:

So we had to learn a lot, Luis, is really what I’m saying here. Like everybody else that adapted their businesses during the pandemic, we also had to learn quickly. I would say it took us about a year to learn, learn, learn and understand what could work. And that’s where we’re at now. So the app that we’ve built most recently has taken the learnings of basically three years and distilled all of that and put it into this app. And maybe just a quick word on that. Our main product right now is an app, but we’re not an app company. An app is just simply a convenient technology platform to get what we do easily into people’s hands. But unlike other meditation companies that are very much about app and app download and so on, that’s not us, that’s just a convenient technology platform, but I wouldn’t call us in any way an app company, we’re a meditation company.

Luis:

Yeah, of course. But that’s even more interesting because you’re managing this situation remotely. And like you said, you’re not an app company. There are plenty of remote app companies out there. Actually I think that’s a great point to get to. What’s the feeling, and how did you manage to build a technology product, not being a technology company itself?

Eric Gerritsen:

That’s interesting because I’m not a technologist. My background is really in corporate development and the same for my partner, we just happen to be meditators. So the good news there is there are companies that have grown up over these last handful of years that… No-code development platforms. So for even guys, Luddites like myself, we can put together an app. I was really quite proud of us to do this as non-technologists that we got this done. Our major contribution, that is the content. So the actual meditation content and the writings and all of it, getting that into that app. And luckily there’s a company that we worked with, a no-code platform, that allowed us to do that in spite of ourselves.

Luis:

Got it. What made you decide… You’re talking about group… Maybe you can go there. I sadly do not have a lot of experience with group meditation. I tried it a couple of times, but not really enough for it to catch on. There are two places I want to go. First, let’s start with your corporate background. Whenever I try to get people at work on board with meditation, I fail miserably even though I should do a better job at it because I’ve been doing it for almost two decades. So clearly I have some problem transmitting the value, but I find that just like 20 years ago, people in business thought that working out was a waste of time. And now almost every person that I know that succeeded at career and building a business, thinks that going a couple of hours to the gym is one of the best time investments they can do.

Luis:

People have been at that place with meditation for a long time where they just don’t understand. It’s hard to communicate for people, specifically in the business world, in the entrepreneurial world, in the corporate world, the value of this practice. So how do you get exactly these kind of people, which I consider to be the most skeptical people, on board?

Eric Gerritsen:

Yeah, it’s really interesting. And when we started this thing, we also had that similar view and understanding. Something really, I’d say, remarkable has been taking place and picking up speed. So I think what you describe is absolutely accurate going back five, seven, eight years, but something has changed in the culture. And I’m not exactly sure why, but over these last handful of years, there seems to have been a greater receptivity to this. Part of it, I think in the corporate world, is leaders struggling with the cost of mental wellbeing, which is apparently 190 billion dollar problem in the American market, the cost of mental health to companies. So I think that on one level there was a very pragmatic need on the part of companies to have better solutions.

Eric Gerritsen:

And to your point, people have been going to gyms now for arguably 50 years, quite a while now, but let’s say quite a lot over the last 20 years. But interestingly, there hasn’t really been a concomitant rise in worker happiness. So people are going to the gyms, but they’re not becoming happier. And they’re not even necessarily becoming less stressed because the stress line keeps going up into the right, which is the wrong direction. So I think there was a recognition that different solutions were needed, and somehow or another, meditation creeped into the culture as being one of the things that people were okay to look at.

Eric Gerritsen:

Part of it… And this actually maps to my own personal experience a little bit. Part of it may have been the rise of yoga. So as yoga rose over the last, let’s say, 15, 20 years as a very accepted way to quote-unquote “Work out” or feel better. Yoga is often one of the ways in to meditation for people. My hunch is that there’s some link there. And then the other piece that excited us very early in this process was what I mentioned earlier is when we started this studio and literally all the HR people in the whatever it was, 20, 25 companies on the tower above us, they all came down and said, “What is going on here? Whatever you’re doing here, we need some of this.” It was really, really striking. That gave us a lot of impetus and enthusiasm to figure it out and see how could we deliver this? How could we deliver meditation in the easiest possible way to the most amount of workers? And that’s what we’re engaged in now.

Luis:

Did that trickle down through word of mouth? Or did you find that everyone just had this cultural, ambient level of curiosity in regards to the practice?

Eric Gerritsen:

Yeah, I think the latter. And again, I’m not entirely sure the origins of it. I think it’s a few different things. But there just seemed to be an openness to experiencing meditation, trying it out. And then that’s another piece that we learned is that in that studio, I’d say about 85, 90% of the people that we initially served had never meditated before. So we recognized that there was a twofold process that we needed to engage in. One was to teach the basics of meditation, which is not hard, but we needed to do that, as well as then offer it up on a consistent basis. And that’s what we’ve packaged up into this current app.

Luis:

I’m almost… Loathe to ask the question, because this is something that I have a [Dzogchen 00:16:05] practicing friend that would just knock me over the head if he heard me ask this question, but I do think that it’s valuable for the people listening which is, what do you feel the people that went to your meditation course got out of it from a career and professional point of view? Because we are talking about something of work. I am personally of the opinion that meditation is good just because it’s good. It’s just something that you should do for its own sake. But I also know that you’re targeting remote workers in particular, and these are people that tend to be a bit more calculating about the ROI from the time they invest. What were the benefits that you saw?

Eric Gerritsen:

Our tagline for this business is “Feel so much better.” And if I were to summarize it in a line, that would be it. There’s so much science around the benefits of meditating, but when it all nets out, that’s what happens, is that people do it even at short amounts of time and they feel so much better. In terms of an investment in time, whether you’re a remote worker, hybrid or in office or wherever might be, that is a very good thing. And it’s very hard to come by. It’s not like a tap you can turn on and off, but this meditation comes pretty darn close to that. So even people that have no experience with it at all very quickly can begin to understand a trickle of what that benefit could be. And then that trickle goes out to the rest of their work life and then ultimately their family, their home life. And then it builds on that.

Eric Gerritsen:

So that’s really the promise there. For us is to open up a channel for people to feel so much better. And then in terms of… This next insight resonates with remote workers, which is, as a remote worker, you’re working with your mind, that’s what you’re doing. And it’s a compelling proposition for anybody who is a quote-unquote “Mind worker” to have a slightly better mind to do that work with. And that is what meditation can deliver. It’s our job to help people understand that link between a calmer outlook, a more autonomous mind and how that can resonate into their day-to-day work life, and then ultimately into their full life.

Luis:

And that makes sense, especially because a lot of remote workers are very prone to an excess of stimulation, no matter how many apps you use or how you toggle the settings in your computer or phone or whatever you use to work, the reality is that just the nature of how technology is today, it’s about hyperstimulation. I find that just being able to be aware of that… I think that’s what I’ve gained the most from meditation over the years, is mostly awareness. It’s like seeing what’s happening to me in high definition.

Eric Gerritsen:

I completely understand that. Part of our challenge as service deliverers is to figure out the easiest way to get this to people. So one of the things as we studied this a lot over the last couple years was looking at different teaching methodologies and so on. We consolidated around a lot of insights that were delivered by a professor at Stanford, a guy named BJ Fogg. He wrote a book called Tiny Habits, which is a terrific book. It’s basically around what are the smallest and easiest ways that you can add a new habit into your life. I won’t get into all of the theory around it, but it’s basically small, easy chunks. And that’s what we do in our app and in our content. We deliver up short meditations in terms of the recorded ones, which are two to five minutes long. So everybody’s got two minutes, everybody’s got two minutes. We’ll take you through something in two minutes that will get you there.

Eric Gerritsen:

I’ll share an anecdote around this, which is a few weeks ago, my wife and I had to redo our life insurance. As part of that, you have to do a medical. So the nurse comes and visits and takes blood and takes, does it all. And one of the things that you have to do, of course, is blood pressure. And so she cuffed me and she did it once, it was high. She did a second time, it was high. And I said, “Before you do it a third time, let me just turn on…” This is a true story. “Turn on my two-minute meditation.” And I said “At the one-minute mark, cuff it again and measure it.” So she said, “Okay.” And she cuffed me. At a minute she measured it and sure enough, this is true, it brought it down 30% and put me right into normal range. And I got my regularly-priced life insurance. That’s just a personal anecdote. I’m not saying everybody will get the same result from that. But my simple point there is to say even a very small amount of time can have very, very nice results.

Luis:

I’ve used meditation to cheat on my doctor appointments all the time. This is definitely something I have done over the past 10 years. I can confirm that. I find that after you have a steady practice… And again, I actually wouldn’t say I had a steady practice. I started with 20 years ago with all the energy of you doing two hour of meditation per day. And then as I got older, the time just decreased. I got older and more busier and today I can usually get the good 20 minutes in, that makes me happy. After all that time, there are things that seem superhuman to other people that become trivially easy for you like controlling your heart rate.

Eric Gerritsen:

Yeah, absolutely. I think you’re absolutely right. So there’s all these wonderful physical pieces. And then it’s the very simple mental benefits that come from even a little bit of meditation. The core of that is around the insight of non-reactivity or learning to not necessarily just immediately react to everything, but to choose your way to respond to things. And that in particular, I think for anybody in the work life, if you’re a software engineer or whatever it might be, once there’s that trigger of a stress in that nanosecond where the immediate impulse is to react in a certain way, as you meditate and learn to control your mind a little bit more in that regard, you take a little moment, pause, and then choose how to respond. And that’s a very small thing, but it’s absolutely profound.

Eric Gerritsen:

And one of the illustrations that we use for that I think resonates with everybody is the tiger in your inbox. And the insight there is that an email that you see showing up on your screen triggers the same response that if you walked into a field and come across a tiger. Those are two radically different events, but they elicit the same response in the body. Which is the stress response, which produces cortisol and all kinds of negative things that come from that. And we’re, to your earlier point, bombarded by stimulation this way, all day long. And I think particularly remote workers, because there’s no obvious on-ramp in the course of their day… Oh, sorry. Obvious off-ramp in the course of their day. They need something to break that rhythm a little bit. And that’s why we’ve these meditations so that they can have it be very easily accessible.

Eric Gerritsen:

And then the other piece that I just want to squeeze in, which is the Zoom meditation. That’s something that we’ve also introduced here that we’ve learned is very valuable to people, which is a sense of community. So in the same way that you have a sense of community, if you go to a routine yoga class or whatever it might be, we can deliver that sense of community online, via Zoom, which we do with our weekly Zoom meditation. And that’s a wonderful thing. People really love it. And that’s one of the areas in which I think we’ll expand over time. And it does deliver a sense of community. And a sense of community is one of the most commonly recognized things that is missing in a remote worker life, because they’re not at the water cooler, they’re not in that situation. So any sense of community that we can deliver that way seems to be a very welcomed thing.

Luis:

That’s interesting. I would also add to the email point that sometimes it’s not even about surprise. It’s about just taking a minute to understand what’s happening. Let’s say, an Slack message. One of the major problems with remote communication, specifically async communication, which I think is wonderful by the way. I do think that it’s a level up in productivity when you start dealing with people just that they can, let’s say, leave you a message at 8:00 AM for them. And after 12 hours, it’s 8:00 AM for you and you’re reading that message. I think that’s incredibly productive, but it comes with, again, a decrease in resolution where the person who writes the message might not have provided the whole context, might have tried to be succinct and then come across as, well, cross or very transactional. And that’s the first impression that you get.

Luis:

And once you get in the use of, you read the message and you can either identify the emotion that arrives from it immediately, and then place a hold on it. And then there’s a “Oh no, this person isn’t intending to be cross. It’s just that they were maybe rushed or they just don’t have an habit of communicating fully when writing or something like that.” Meditation doesn’t create the valve, but it provides you access to that valve that says, “Hey, let me put a pause on that emotion that this immediately elicits. And let me evaluate if it makes sense to feel that emotion.”

Eric Gerritsen:

I think you’re absolutely right. And one of the things that meditation really does help with is the so-called negativity bias. So to your point, when looking at a Slack message or an email or whatever, those messages lack tonality, they’re flat and so many of the cues that we normally get in regular communication aren’t there. So the reflex reaction for human minds is a negativity bias. “Oh, they probably meant this” and that’s a negative thing. And that’s just evolutionary biology and a lot of other reasons for that, they’re too long to get into here. But meditation helps with that. It helps to mitigate the negativity bias and interpret phenomena in a more fundamentally positive way. And that seems to be a benefit as well.

Luis:

Let’s talk a bit about the app itself and the kinds of meditation it provides. You made a point of [inaudible 00:28:19] that they were chunked in two to five minutes, which I actually think that is great. You have meditation structures, I guess we can start by… It seems very secular based on the website I researched before our interview. But I was wondering if you follow any tradition or if the meditation’s being secular, if they’re based on any kind of tradition, particular-

Eric Gerritsen:

That’s another important learning that we had over the last couple of years, as we initially engaged with HR leaders that were interested in this for their people, that was one of the first questions is, “Do people have to be Buddhist to do this?” Or “Do they have to chant?” Or “Do we have to smell incense?” All of these questions. So we realized that we had to take that head on, and that’s why we market ourselves as a secular experience. So we’re really just teaching the thinking techniques, which are fundamentally very simple. Those techniques have come down through a long, long set of lineages. Ultimately, if you trace it back, it probably originates in Vedic India, four or 5,000 years ago, and then came through Buddhist culture and tradition, spread throughout Asia, the Zen traditions in Japan and so on.

Eric Gerritsen:

But interestingly, almost… Every cultural tradition that I’ve looked into so far, including even Egyptian and certainly European origins, almost all of these cultural traditions have some measure of contemplative tradition, a thought tradition. So we’re not particularly adhering to a particular tradition, but we distill the thinking techniques from all of these different traditions into something that’s easily understood and effective in a modern environment. That turned out to be an important thing, and that’s what we’re delivering to people.

Eric Gerritsen:

So in terms of the content of the app, it’s a few things. We get people started right away with an orientation meditation. And then we have a series of guided micro-meditations, as I said, between two and five minutes long. And those are often built around a particular theme that applies to remote workers, clarity, focus, things like that. And then we supplement that with a weekly email from the instructors that takes on a particular area of interest.

Eric Gerritsen:

And then we have the weekly Zoom meditations that we do. And a large trove of written content, of insights written by our instructors, again, with the point of view to be quite practical, as well as a little bit of history. And in theory, to help them, at a practical level, establish a very simple but effective meditation practice. So that’s it. One of the things that we arrived at when we designed this app, because we looked at all the different… Well, not all, but many of the key other apps out there in the market. And to say, “We don’t want to just be another app because the world doesn’t need that. But what might the world that we’re interested in need?” And our conclusion was, with so many of those other apps, when you enter them, you almost immediately get lost because there is so much different content. There’s a meditation for riding a bus, there’s a meditation for taking a meeting, there’s a meditation for managing your children and on and on and on and on. It’s confusing.

Luis:

overwhelming.

Eric Gerritsen:

Yeah, it’s over.

Eric Gerritsen:

Exactly. It’s overwhelming. So our feeling was let’s take what we’ve learned about work and meditation and now in particular in the remote context, and serve up something really small and compact, but very focused and hopefully very effective so that as soon as people enter into it, they know where they are and what we’re going to do with them. And we get them there efficiently, quickly and hopefully successfully. So that’s what we’ve designed. So in a way, when you open our app is way less complicated, way less dense than many of the other ones out there in the market, but hopefully way more focused and get people to feeling so much better as soon as we can.

Luis:

I’m curious about the progression if there even is any progression. What do your instructors usually use as the locus of attention? I’m assuming, maybe I’m assuming wrongly, but traditionally everyone starts by the breath. But then you can move on from that, you can focus on certain parts of the body, you can come up with a mantra, something along that side. I think this is interesting to look at because what I found is that different people respond differently to different locuses. I’m wanting your thoughts on that. And what kind of variety does the app offer or is that something that-

Eric Gerritsen:

I think, broadly speaking, the tool or the technique that we use is around breath, is coming back to breath, which is a very common one. People understand that from yoga or other traditions. But I will say again, an insight along the way is we realized that we need to demystify a bunch of things around meditation. And one of them was, “I can’t sit and concentrate. My mind’s too noisy.” A very common observation. And some people think that what needs to happen is that you need to look at a candle flame and concentrate on nothing but that for 20 minutes or only concentrate on your breath for 20 minutes in so-called single point concentration meditation. And there are certainly techniques and reasons to do that. And for more advanced people, I think in particular. But that’s probably way too hard for most folks. And also is confusing around a core insight, which is you don’t really need to control your mind in that way to meditate. It’s not the point.

Eric Gerritsen:

The point is to watch your mind, to sit quietly and watch what happens. Be the observer, be aware about what’s going on in front of your mind. And that’s the beginning. That is the true beginning. And literally 100% of people can do that and everybody can close their eyes for a minute or two and just watch what’s moving through their mind. And that is the true beginning of it. Because then once you begin to understand that you can observe your own mind. And then you realize that… Still to me is a mind-blowing thing that you are not your mind. You are not your thoughts. That is not you. You’re the observer of all those thoughts.

Eric Gerritsen:

And once that insight of settles in a little bit, then all kinds of things are possible in terms of letting negative thoughts go for example, and why not? Because they’re going to go anyways ultimately. And you can let a whole lot more of them go, a whole lot more quickly once you learn how to just observe what’s going on and realize that you don’t necessarily need to be the victim of all those different thoughts or to be stressed out by all of those thoughts all the time, because you know what? They’re going to move on. That’s just what thoughts do.

Luis:

I just think that it’s important to give the caveat for people who might [inaudible 00:36:26] podcast being encountering these concepts for the first time, that you will probably not get this insight in the first time you meditate. You might and that would be wonderful, but generally it requires some time doing it before you can really stop identifying with your thoughts.

Eric Gerritsen:

You’re absolutely correct. In our position, our point of view on it all is treating everybody as a beginner and frankly treating ourselves as beginners, because I think we’re eternally beginners. So one of the reasons that the teachers that we work with, that we’ve identified are really, really special people and are very good at exactly this point, is taking complete neophytes and bit by bit introducing some of these insights through direct experience and bringing them through it. And then along the way is up to people, if they want to go very, very, very far in this. Of course, there’s many, many different ways to do that. And there’s probably other venues, but in the working day we think we can be of help to people through sharing some of these experiences.

Luis:

And conversely, even people… Because I know there are a few that hear about apps like this and think that’s too basic. And that really isn’t. Even people who have been meditating for a decade or more, you know this, that sometimes you need to go back to that basic thing and just do the simple breath meditation for five minutes. That’s where you find what you need to find in that time. Because there’s also this whole culture of people that frankly started doing meditation when meditation started being popularized in the west and they just think it is a bit of a thing that it isn’t, that’s like, “Oh, okay, now I’m not thinking about anything. My mind is a blank slate.” And that is also an illusion. That’s about as natural as your heart stopping beating.

Eric Gerritsen:

Exactly right. And for a lot of people, that’s a very eye-opening insight and often that’s where we start. People are like, “Oh, I can’t stop my mind.” It’s like, “Okay. Let’s just dispel that notion immediately. That’s not what you’re going to do. And that’s not what we’re going to help you with. There is no future in that.”

Luis:

Exactly. Let’s talk a bit more about… I want to be respectful of your time. So I want to make a couple of rapid-fire questions before we close the show, but I don’t want the answers to be rapid fire, please feel free to expand as much as you’d like. The first thing is I’m interested… As someone who’s managing their business remotely, I’m interested in your work setup, specifically the virtual office. What does your computer look like? What does your browser look like when you sit down in the morning, I assume, for a day of work?

Eric Gerritsen:

I am speaking to you from my home office and looking out in beautiful trees and a village starting to wake up here. I use a MacBook Air and an iPhone and that’s my world. That’s my work world.

Luis:

What apps do you find yourself going to in a daily basis?

Eric Gerritsen:

We are, as most of us are now, pretty heavy Zoom users, use Google Docs, quite a lot for shared documents. We are often in the backend of our app environment, tinkering with it and improving it and so on. I would say those are the core productivity tools that I use.

Luis:

So if you had, let’s say, 100 bucks to spend with each person on your team and you weren’t able to ask each person what would be best for them, you were forced to buy in bulk, but you could buy anything in-app and experience a physical object, what would you give your team? The rule is you can’t give money or a cash equivalent, like a gift card.

Eric Gerritsen:

Of course, I can’t give our own app, so that’s… I’d have to self-deal that out. But honestly what comes to mind is what I’m looking at right now and I’m speaking to you on, which is a device that raises my laptop up by a foot, I would say. So that allows me to then look directly at you as opposed to down, which is where most of us do. So many of us have neck issues. We’re looking down all the time and those neck issues are terrible for a lot of us. I’ve spent last year doing that with a chiropractic to work on my neck issues. Most everybody I know complains about some version of that. And this costs certainly less than a hundred dollars. It’s just brushed metal. But that to me seems like a very effective and inexpensive thing that people could use to just raise their neck up a little bit.

Luis:

So excluding that because you just talked about it. What about your other thing? Some other thing that you have bought in the past six months that has improved whatever work-related metric you care to improve? Could be work-life balance, could be productivity, could be whatever.

Eric Gerritsen:

Another very cheap and shareable thing is a… This is appropriate for remote workers, which is one of these elastic exercise bands. So I don’t know what they cost, 20 bucks or something like that, 30 bucks. But I’ve learned from my trainer an infinite amount of things that you can do with literally just one of those elastic bands. It can double as a set of weights, it can do all kinds of different things. You can take it on the road with you. It can just be right next to your home working environment and you can get up once a day or whatever, and do 10 minutes of these banded stretches and so on. And again, to loosen up the shoulder muscles and the neck muscles and so on, that seems like another cheap and cheerful thing that is of value.

Luis:

I’d like to double down on that because it’s… Look, one of the easiest ways to ensure that you get some workout and that you get up every now and then is just to have the material for that right at hand. So yeah, definitely in support of that. I’m even a fan of that we were talking about, overstimulation, but I actually have my wristwatch set to every hour that I’m sitting to actually wire me to get up and do something. That’s one piece of stimulation that I believe improves my wellbeing.

Eric Gerritsen:

Absolutely, just quickly share an anecdote how all this started for me, which is about five years ago, sitting at my computer in an office setting, a group office setting. And I had this overwhelming feeling that if I didn’t begin to move something bad was going to happen to me. Really amorphous feeling, but just sitting there hunched over a computer week after week, month after month, year after year. And I just had this feeling like “I got to move. I don’t know what I need to do, but I just got to start moving.” So I started doing things, old things like biking and running, and didn’t enjoy that. Tried a bunch of different things, then tried yoga and that resonated very quickly. And I was very happy about that. And then yoga is what introduced me to meditation, which is why we’re sitting here talking today. So getting away from the keyboard and stretching, breaking, interrupting that workday a little bit is of immense value, I think.

Luis:

Absolutely. So let’s talk about books. In your journey, I’m assuming you’ve… Maybe not, maybe you’re not the kind of person who gifts books, but if you give books, what are your most gifted books?

Eric Gerritsen:

The one that I’ve shared out quite a bit over the last two or three years is something called Altered Traits by Daniel Goleman at Harvard. So Altered Traits. It is Goleman and a colleague of his that over the last 20 years have done some absolutely remarkable research into meditation, in particular working with Tibetan monks and trying to understand the science of this. And so putting monks into ECG environments and so on, and really trying to measure what actually goes on here with this meditation thing. It’s very ancient, but how much is truly known about it? It’s too much to get into in the short time here, but it’s profoundly interesting book in as much as it identifies scientifically what happens in a human mind when they meditate. Remarkable things.

Eric Gerritsen:

That the experienced meditator, for example, has a brain that is 7.5 years younger than their chronological age. And then also measuring literally parts of the brain that become bigger or more active as people begin to meditate more and all kinds of fascinating things. Anyways, that’s a book that… Terrific read. It almost reads like a thriller in a way, because it’s a great adventure story to go in and look at a 5,000-year old tradition, but try to understand it through a scientific lens and a classically skeptical lens. A wonderful read.

Luis:

Oh, that sounds like a great recommendation. I’ll have to get my hands on a copy. So final question. Once it’s normal to gather everyone together for dinner, normal and safe, let’s say that you are doing that. You are hosting a dinner and in attendance are going to be the decision-makers from the top tech companies from all around the world. Here’s the twist. You are doing so at the Chinese restaurant. So as the host, you get to pick the message that goes inside the fortune cookie. What is your fortune cookie message?

Eric Gerritsen:

I think my message would be “Relax. It’s all going to be okay.”

Luis:

Nice. That’s a good message. I have never heard that one before. Great. “Relax. It’s all going to be okay.” Would you care to expand on why do you think that these people in particular need to relax or do you want to leave it open for the listeners?

Eric Gerritsen:

I think we’ll leave that open, Luis.

Luis:

Okay, that sounds great. Look, Eric, it was an absolute pleasure having you here. I loved the conversation. Why don’t you tell people where they can find you, where they can continue this conversation with you and also where they can learn all about the app and join?

Eric Gerritsen:

Yeah, it’s really simple. You download the free app at meditatehere.com. So the app is there. And anybody interested in engaging directly with me, it’s just [email protected] and love to chat with any about all of these things. I’m deeply interested in it and love talking about it. A bit of a nerd about it all now, I guess. So yeah, that would be it.

Luis:

All right. Well, thank you so much for being here. We’ll have all of that linked in the show notes so people can just check it out there and click and explore away. Thank you for listening to the DistantJob Podcast, your podcast about building and leading awesome remote teams. See you next week. Thank you so much, Eric.

Eric Gerritsen:

Thank you, Luis.

Luis:

And so we close another episode of the DistantJob Podcast. And if you enjoyed the episode, please, you can help us out by sharing it on social media. That would be great. It’s how we reach more listeners. And the more listeners we have, the more awesome guests I can get in touch and convince to participate in these conversations that are a joy to have for me. I hope they’re a joy for you to listen to as well. You can also help a lot leaving reviews on iTunes or your podcast syndication service of choice. Reviews are surprisingly helpful in helping the podcast get to more listeners. Now, another thing that you might want to do is go to distantjob.com/blog/podcast. Click on your favorite episode, and in any episode really, and subscribe. By subscribing, you will get a notification whenever a new episode is up and whenever we get the transcripts of the episode up, so you can actually peruse the conversations in text form.

Luis:

And of course, if you need to find a great employee for your team, a great remote employee, you should take the whole world into consideration and not just look to hire locally, not just look to hire in your country, look around the whole world because that’s the talent pool that contains the best talent. And to help you with that, again, distantjob.com is the perfect place to start. You will tell us who we need and we will make sure that you get the best possible candidate 40% faster than the industry standard. And with that, I bid you adieu. See you next week on the next episode for DistantJob Podcast.

Remote work has endless benefits, from increases in productivity to better work-life balance. However, due to the pandemic, there are still many challenges that remote workers are facing, such as isolation, burnout, and anxiety. And meditation is one of the best solutions to tackle these problems.

During this podcast, Eric Gerritsen explains how meditation is not about the classical image of the Tibetan monk in a cave alone. It’s also embracing that meditation can be a group activity, and it can be done in places like you’re living room or home office. One of the key lessons Eric shares is how investing a few minutes a day can permanently transform your quality of life.

Highlights:

  • Why meditation is a key tool for a better work life balance
  • How mental health has gained relevancy during the past years in the corporate world
  • The impact of meditation in remote workers
  • Mental benefits of meditating for a few minutes a day
  • Insights about the process of building an app (without being a tech company)

Book Recommendations:

Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE so you won’t miss all of the other interesting episodes that we have coming up every Monday!

Are you our next superstar remote developer?

You live, breathe and eat code, and have fun figuring out how to solve problems. And you love living in South America or Eastern Europe. But you don’t feel as fulfilled as your friends in North America.

I NEED A JOB