Creating a Mindful Workplace
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As a mindful leader, you strive to communicate openly and clearly, show your appreciation, build a mutually supportive team, and show a growth mindset. You take care of yourself—and you encourage your team by your example. That mindfulness makes you more alert to the ways in which your entire company might become even healthier, happier, and productive. But sometimes, it is hard to convince other people to try mindfulness.
Mindful workplaces deliver impressive results. Aetna, for example, created a mindful workplace and saved $2,000 in employee healthcare while gaining $3,000 per employee in productivity. Mindfulness in workplace supervisors is proven to affect the job satisfaction and performance of employees. In a study at Dow, a group that participated in a mindfulness program reported significantly less stress than a control group and more resilience. Finally, Wharton School researchers discovered that practicing mindfulness for as little as 5 to 10 minutes a day was able to transform a workplace.
A mindful workplace is better able to:
- Avoid or resolve conflicts.
- Communicate between management levels and siloed teams.
- Control its risk-taking to the appropriate scale.
- Manage distractions to increase concentration and productivity.
- Innovate and find creative solutions.
Given these benefits, what can you do to create a mindful workplace?
TIP: One course in mindfulness, quickly forgotten, will not transform a company; you need to incorporate mindfulness practice into the workday.
Preparing for a Mindful Workplace
Before you introduce any formal mindfulness training in the workplace, you should prepare your company by making a few changes that will create a more receptive atmosphere and show that you are committed to the welfare of employees. If you enter into mindfulness solely concentrating on productivity, you will miss the point: employees want to feel job satisfaction, creativity in their work, and above all, less stress.
- Change the company’s routines. Your employees are stressed if they are confronted on their arrival with mounds of emails, demands for meetings, and other distractions. You might set a rule of no emails outside of work hours and no meetings before a certain time in the morning, setting aside time for employees to prioritize their day and set up in calm and quiet. Many companies have benefitted from starting each meeting with a minute of silence, allowing employees to regroup and focus on the purpose of the meeting, leading to faster and more productive meetings with better communication.
- Consider your company’s impact. From services to manufacturing, every company has an impact on the community and the world around it—not to mention the lives of its employees. Companies that embrace social responsibility give their employees a greater sense of commitment and also help attract committed employees. Those companies may contribute to improving the environment, standards of living, educational opportunities, access to basic needs, and other causes. Begin within your own company: speak up when you see discrimination at work; create a more inclusive environment with your hiring practices; help employees in their educational goals; and give employees time to take care of health and family issues without losing pay.
- Create physical space. Especially in a manufacturing environment but in any busy company, noise is almost constant, aggravated by the cubicle and open concept movements. Create a welcoming space where employees can go to relax, free of computers, phones, televisions, loudspeakers, talk, and interruptions. If you note that employees work through breaks—or even lunch—you might consider making breaks mandatory and ensure that everyone leaves their stations, desks, or offices for lunch.
- Make “thank you” and gratitude a daily practice. The act of gratitude benefits the recipient and the giver; it sets a tone of positive relationships, and it encourages others to recognize each other and create moments worthy of gratitude. Your sincere recognition for specific acts, expressed frequently, is more valuable than a single, competitive award given at the end of the year.
TIP: You cannot force people to be mindful, but you can create an environment in which mindfulness is free to occur.
Professional Mindfulness Training
Most people are aware of mindfulness and yet still not certain what it means or entails. For example, they may need help in designing personal affirmations; expressing gratitude effectively—or even recognizing the need for gratitude; or dealing mindfully with their own physical, financial, and emotional issues.
As professionals in the field of mindfulness and stress reduction, the team at JBPartners has heard nearly every excuse for resisting mindfulness: it is a fad; I don’t have time (a clue to their level of stress); it’s a waste of time; I have a very activity of the mind, and I’m great at multi-tasking; it takes serious commitment and study; it conflicts with may spiritual beliefs (or non-beliefs); it will change them in ways I don’t want to change changed; I will lose control.
These attitudes are often softened or turned around once employees hear about the benefits of mindfulness and how we help to incorporate it into a mindful workplace. For example, a recent scholarly review of studies about mindfulness in the workplace concluded that it increases the ability to:
- Appraise stressors
- See the context of stressors
- Find ways to respond differently to stressors
- Establish calm
- Improve quality of life, including sleep, social functioning, and relationships.
Mindfulness practices commonly introduced into the workplace include breath meditation, sitting and walking meditation, and body scan. Best practices for developing a mindful workplace focus on brief activities (from 1 to 15 minutes) that can be performed easily in a work environment. Activities show participants how to focus on one task at a time, relax and rest between tasks, and work with intention and awareness of their own achievements.
However, the type of mindfulness training is less important than its existence—almost any length, frequency, and type of mindfulness training deliver positive results for as long as a year.
If you are advocating for a mindful workplace, be careful about overselling. Mindfulness is neither a cure-all nor a free ticket into a higher state of being. Its purpose is not to increase corporate profits but to decrease stress, encourage calm, and perhaps give each individual a bit more insight into themselves and others.
TIP: It helps if you and your employees realize that mindfulness is a tool, not a prescription for living or an escape from reality. As with any other tool, the person wielding it is in charge.
Mindful workplaces are calmer, happier, and more productive places but introducing mindful practices in the workplace requires time and attention to the concerns and priorities of employees. By creating opportunities to practice mindfulness in the workplace, you let employees know that your chief concern is their health and well-being.