MINDFULNESS AT THE WORKPLACE
Have you ever thought about sitting quietly at your desk and doing nothing? Doing nothing is hard!
While this could be quite contradictory to what organizations want from their employees such as multitasking, doing more in less time, improving productivity and so on, these only lead to burnout, increase in stress, and loss in productivity, finally leading to attrition.
It’s mind-boggling how something as simple as sitting and focussing on your breath has such powerful benefits. Among several benefits, mindfulness gives employees an opportunity to think and engage better by being fully present in the moment, focussing only on the task at hand and not on what is piled up in the inbox or on your desk.
A recent study titled Workplace Stress: Impact and Outcomes conducted in 2016 by SHRM & CGP was an eye-opener for a lot of organizations. For the first time in India, a study was conducted to quantify productivity losses due to workplace stress. According to the study, a banking/finance company, with an average employee base of 5,000, takes a hit of about Rs 100 crore in productivity losses a year due to stress-related issues. For an IT/ITeS company, with an average employee base of 10,000, the loss is about Rs 50 crore. And for a company with an average employee base of 2,000 operating in the travel and hospitality space, it’s just over Rs 10 crore.
How can Mindfulness help?
In simple words, mindfulness means being fully present in the moment. The origins of mindfulness are associated with Buddhist traditions – however since the 1960s these practices have been combined with modern psychological theory and developed into a secular practice which has now has been adopted in several organizations. There are thousands of studies around this today – I would like to highlight in particular, research carried out by the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. Here’s a short video on Mindfulness based Stress Reduction and here’s the link to their publications.
Today many organizations have adopted mindfulness practices knowing the benefit it brings. Some of them are:
• Mindfulness is proven to lower levels of stress.
• Mindfulness improves focus and clarity, listening and decision making skills, even when under pressure, which then results in higher and more creative productivity and efficiency.
• Mindfulness improves the quality of relationships, including those at work.
• Improves overall wellbeing and quality of life
Google took an early lead adopting mindfulness within their organization. Chade-Meng Tan, a software engineer started a kind of mindfulness training called Search Inside Yourself which has revolutionised Google. Every year, thousands of employees took his program, at times the waiting time for enrolling in the course was over six months. As quoted in Harvard Business Review “Google believes that these mindfulness programs teach emotional intelligence, which helps people better understand their colleagues’ motivations. They also boost resilience to stress and improve mental focus. Participants of the Search Inside Yourself program report being calmer, more patient, and better able to listen. They also say the program helped them better handle stress and defuse emotions.”
Some of the other well-known and respected organizations who recognize the benefits and make a commitment to mindfulness are General Mills, Intel, Aetna, Goldman Sachs, Target, JP Morgan etc.
The four areas of impact organizations can see when incorporating mindfulness practices are
(a) Financial Impact – improved profitability, resilient workforce
(b) Human Impact – improved wellbeing, reduced stress
(c) Mental Impact – improved cognitive abilities, creativity
(d) Social Impact – better relationships, collaborative and committed workforces.
Many organizations are finding that mindfulness practices are helping reduce stress and absenteeism, increase productivity, improve focus and clarity, enhance problem solving and decision making abilities and develop a resilient workforce. Mindfulness is most often referred to as a practice that individuals and teams can do on a day-to-day basis anywhere, anytime. Typically, workplace mindfulness training ranges from one-hour workshops to a structured 8 to 10 week program. An easy way to get started is to practice simple mindfulness exercises for 5 to 10 minutes a day.
Like anything else, mindfulness takes a lot of effort and commitment, and is at times difficult and frustrating to practice. But the good news is that the longer you practice, the easier it gets. Also, meditation practices are not easy to measure for an individual, unlike other forms of exercise that can be quantified, through calories, fat burnt etc. Hence a lot of us are very reluctant to invest any time into something we cannot see immediate results.
The mind is the centre of everything we do. It decides how we feel, what we do, what we say, how we behave, it defines our sense of fulfillment, joy and happiness.
If you are interested in learning about how to build resilient and mindful organizations, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org