For many of us, work is a pressure cooker environment and we could all use some tools to help us be more productive and less stressed. Find out how to bring mindfulness into your daily work routine - and reap the benefits.
If there's one thing Google, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and Oprah Winfrey have in common, it is a commitment to mindfulness practices in their workplace.
Once associated with a highly spiritual lifestyle set apart from the mainstream, mindfulness training courses are becoming the norm in huge corporations in big cities around the world. Companies are finding it reduces stress and absenteeism, increases productivity, develops better leaders, and generates more creative workplaces. It also enhances cognitive thinking skills and triggers more imaginative solutions.
A survey conducted by the Australian Psychological Society found 35 per cent of Australians felt a significant level of distress in their lives.
For workers, this stress often includes the burden of a heavy workload, a difficult boss, the concept of change that eats up even more of their day, and worries about losing their jobs.
Mindfulness can help ease the fretting about these issues, by getting you to focus on the present. By definition, mindfulness involves the intentional and non-judgmental focus of our attention on our emotions, sensations and thoughts in the here and now.
For an employee, this means being fully present in a moment, thinking only of the task at hand, not what is piled up in the inbox or what might appear there in the future. It is the energy of being aware of what is really happening and of refocusing on your work and its purpose.
Here are some ways to encourage mindfulness in your workplace:
- Make time for mindfulness. A corporation can be committed to mindfulness, but if no time is allowed for an employee to sit quietly for a few minutes, it will fail to get the results wanted. In times of greatest stress try to meditate quietly for 20 minutes a day. If you are too busy to do that, that means you should meditate for an hour.
- Offer courses in mindfulness. Offer mindfulness training in executive development courses, and mindful stress-management programs to everyone.
- Be sensitive to the workplace culture. If your audience doesn’t respond well to the term mindfulness, call it something else like presence or “the now”. Just make sure the employees use the term to open their minds about it.
- Encourage a climate where co-workers accept each other regardless of strengths and weaknesses. The people who work with you have their own strengths and weaknesses. No matter where you go, there will be people you naturally warm to and those who upset you. Do not judge the latter. Just like you, they have had to undergo an upbringing and you have no idea how it moulded their character. Do your best to recognise people for where they are now in the present, not for who they were yesterday or who they might become in the future.
- Encourage employees to practice mindful breathing to restore their center of calm. When employees feel stressed, it can be extremely helpful to experience mindful breathing. Simply breath in and out three times, focused on nothing but your breath. Eliminate all other thoughts and just let calm return to the present.
- Create a room where employees can be comfortable meditating and an outside garden for summer days. Pay more than lip service to a mindfulness at work program. Designate an area where employees can feel comfortable doing mindful breathing exercises or can meditate without distraction.
- Cultivate a habit of abundance. Express gratitude for the good things being done by people around you.
- Do one routine task mindfully. Return your attention to the current moment. Abandon your concerns about the future or the past. Choose a task you have to do and focus on completing it. See it in a new way.
- Email mindfully. Type out your email and then step away from your keyboard. Take three deep breaths and focus only on your breath. Return to the email and re-read it. Do you still feel that way? Imagine how the person reading it will feel. Is that the reaction you want to achieve?
Michael Bunting is a bestselling author and runs leadership consultancy WorkSmart Australia. For more info, visit www.mindfulleader.net.