The power of mindfulness in your workplace
The power of mindfulness is something that is now well-known and recognised. However, the benefits of practicing mindfulness are not only restricted to our personal life. Mindfulness in the workplace can be a great tool to navigate times of uncertainty such as the ones we are living now with the Covid-19 pandemic.
What is mindfulness?
But what is mindfulness, exactly? Mindfulness is defined as a mental state of awareness of the present moment. Being mindful means paying attention to what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment.
In today’s fast-paced society, it is too easy to lose touch with our bodies, our breath, the present moment. We often end up living “in our heads”, caught up in our thoughts, always thinking about the future (what’s next on the to-do list, worries, plans). It sounds like a paradox, but we think very little about the present.
How to incorporate mindfulness in your daily life – and beyond
The first step of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. It could be as easy as using all your senses while carrying out some everyday action.
Think about eating an orange using all you sense. Appreciate its wonderful color, feel its skin and texture, smell its beautiful citrus scent, hear if there are some almost imperceptible sounds while peeling it, and finally taste it in your mouth, paying attention to the sensations it’s giving you.
This is what being mindful means.
Another important part of mindfulness is awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen. Learning to recognize that they are only thoughts. That we should not be as influenced by them as we typically are.
Mindfulness is an act of wellness and self-care. Practicing mindfulness meditation is a great first step to take notice of your thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and the world around you.
However, do not think about sitting uncomfortably like a Buddhist monk for hours on end. Mindfulness and mindful activities can be easily incorporated into everyday life. And it can also become essential in your workplace, especially in times of uncertainty and stress.
How mindfulness helps mental wellbeing
Our brains are evolutionarily wired to focus on threats. Short-term stress is actually a very useful defense mechanism. The problems start when stress becomes chronic. Chronic stress can negatively impact our immune system, and it is detrimental to our mental health, leading to more severe issues like anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances.
Mindfulness meditation allows our brains to become more resilient to stress and to stay more grounded. This, eventually, leads to making decisions from a place of awareness instead of panic.
When you become more aware of the present moment, you are better equipped to notice the world around you, appreciating the magic of the little things.
Workplace mindfulness in times of uncertainty
In 2020, life as we knew it had been put on hold due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. We had to adapt to new ways of living. New (and sometimes creative) ways of working. Companies worldwide have put in place emergency and precautionary measures to help combat the spread of the virus. For many people, this meant transitioning to work from home full time, improvising work set up in living rooms, bedrooms, kitchens.
Moreover, school closure meant that many parents had to attempt to maintain their work productivity while also juggling homeschooling. These situations added up to the concerns about the virus and its risks, the financial implications, the overall uncertainty we all feel about the future.
It is undoubted then that employees have been in a status of prolonged stress and anxiety. Employers cannot ignore the impact that these stressors will have on their people and their business.
The good news is that many organizations all over the world are now offering options to mitigate these effects, helping their employees stay healthy and safe. Having a digital corporate mindfulness program available for the employees is a great way to do so.
Implementing mindfulness in the workplace is now easier than ever. For example, the famous mindfulness app Headspace, which offers great guided meditations, is also offering a workplace meditation program.
However, not everyone can work from home. There are tons of people who never stopped going to work during the pandemic. Think about healthcare professionals, emergency services, supermarket workers, people working for the postal services, public transport drivers, and many others.
Even for these people, and more importantly so, it’s the employer’s responsibility to support their mental health during these periods of stress and worry. To give them the time to recharge, maybe offering on-demand corporate mindfulness practices, office yoga, lunchtime meditation, or fitness classes.
The science of corporate mindfulness
The pandemic is still ongoing, and so it’s the research. Not only to find vaccines and cures. All over the world, there is also a lot of research investigating the effects of the pandemic on our mental health. A recent interesting study found that mindfulness is a very effective approach to help employees going through the challenges associated with working from home. Specifically, mindfulness can be particularly beneficial because it can help employees mentally disconnect from work when they need it. And while working from home, where the line between personal and professional life is very blurred, this is essential.
In addition, mindfulness can improve the individuals’ attention to work tasks and thereby improve their performance. Last but not least, mindfulness allows workers to better manage screen fatigue (which is a real thing!).
Other studies have shown the power of mindfulness in decreasing the stress and anxiety in frontline healthcare workers during the current Covid-19 crisis.
Real-world examples of workplace mindfulness
Corporate mindfulness is a real thing. Many of the world’s largest and best-known corporations were already offering mindfulness classes for their employees before the pandemic. These include Google, Nike, Apple, L’Oreal, and Goldman Sachs. They all believe that mindfulness can greatly improve the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. And a happier, less stressed employee is a more productive employee. It’s a win-win.
“Wellbeing and mental health are no longer a check the box benefit, they need to be a real priority across the entire company.”
Google, for example, has been running the mindfulness program “Search Inside Yourself” since 2007. After participating in the program, employees are better able to listen to their colleagues, breathe mindfully and manage the stress and pressure of a high-demanding job.
Many companies such as Nike, Yahoo! or Procter and Gamble all offer quiet areas and meditation spaces where the employees can go to rest, relax, pray or practice mindfulness.
Given the current situation, many companies were forced to create a different way to teach these classes and moved to online classes that could offer the more “live” experience as possible in terms of video and audio.
Whether in person or online, an employer’s message when offering mindfulness is clear: they care about their employees’ wellbeing and mental health. And that’s what leadership is about.
Read my next article about why is it essential to support the mental health of employees.