Mindfulness at work just makes sense

Inc. Magazine

You probably imagine mantras, yoga mats and burning incense when thinking about mindfulness. But the practice can be applied to all aspects of life, including the workplace.

Leah Weiss, the Los Angeles-based author of “How We Work,” defines mindfulness as “paying attention to inattention.” In the office, it involves finding ways to reduce distractions while keeping employees present and in the moment. This can lead to a happier and more efficient workplace.

The idea of increasing productivity while slowing down seems counterintuitive for most leaders. But once you understand how to implement these practices into company culture, you’ll see how easy it is to reap the benefits.

Explain the concept

Many employees are wary of mindfulness. They think of it as spiritual meditation involving chanting and checking out, and don’t understand how it fits into the workplace. As a leader, it’s your job to explain mindfulness. 

There are many ways to be mindful: Be present at work and don't mindlessly go through the workday, don't multi-task, remind yourself to breathe deeply, finds ways to be grateful, take a break, avoid unecessary tech. 

“Meditation and mindfulness aren’t just hippy concepts,” said Ted Dhanik, CEO of the Los Angeles-based digital advertising company engage:BDR.

In fact, a November 2017 study from the University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business found that after participating in mindfulness training, employees were less stressed and more productive. The employees also were less likely to be rude to one another, creating a better work environment.

If your employees are skeptical about mindfulness, share scientific research with them. Then encourage them to try mindfulness exercises like meditation for a short while. They can document their feelings, energy levels and productivity before they begin.

After a few weeks, they can reassess those metrics. Talk with them about the changes they’ve experienced. Once they see the general improvements in their performance, they’ll likely be more open and accepting of aspects of mindfulness in the workplace.

Schedule breaks

A key tenant of mindfulness is taking time to refocus. Whether it’s through meditation, exercise or listening to music, these breaks allow the mind time to reset to the present. Unfortunately, busy work days allow little time for mindfulness.

This is why auditing and tax service company Deloitte has reimagined the workday schedule.

“We also encourage our people to incorporate small breaks throughout the day by scheduling 25- or 50-minute meetings,” said Jen Fisher, the Miami-based national managing director of well-being.

Instead of back-to-back meetings and appointments, there are little breaks built in for employees to practice mindfulness. As a leader, set the example. If you have a scheduling link to your calendar, make sure that there are always small breaks set aside for mental recuperation.

Identify tensions

Disagreements, confusion and tensions interfere with employees’ attention. Redirect their focus by finding a mindful way to vent about these distractions. Experiential marketing agency CatalystCreativ tries to keep employees in the moment.

“We have monthly meetings where each and every individual on the team can bring up tensions,” said Amanda Slavin, the Las Vegas-based CEO and founder.

The company defines tension as factors affecting where the company is versus where it could be. These regular discussions allow the team to stay grounded in reality.

In addition to these types of meetings, check in regularly with your employees. Focus on progress and what is distracting them. Show employees what they can accomplish in the present rather than situations that are out of their control.

Create a space

Meditation is a big part of mindfulness. But many people don’t realize there are many ways to meditate. For the practice to be effective, people need to find a form of meditation that works for them.

As a leader, you would be smart to provide employees with a place to enjoy quiet time.

“Employers can turn an unused room into a quiet place to give employees a dedicated space for their mental well-being,” said Lori Casselman, the Toronto-based chief health officer of digital health benefits platform League.

Think about what defines your company. Then create a space that reflects the organization’s culture and values. For example, if your company is focused on improving the local community, fill the room with photos of the neighborhood. This will remind employees what they are working for and give them something positive to focus on while they meditate.

Even if your company doesn’t have a traditional office, you have options. My employees work remotely. But we set aside two 15-minute blocks every day for wellness. What we call #Fitness15 is my employees’ time to break from work and refocus.

For some, that means meditation or exercise or having a cup of tea. For others, it’s a reflection and mediation break. Employees decide for themselves.

Heather R. Huhman is the president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for job search and human resources technologies. She is the author of “#ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle.”

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