How businesses can cultivate mindfulness in the workplace

Feeling burnt out, uninspired and disengaged at work?

The stress of any kind affects both the employer and employee, leading to more issues faced by companies, including workplace conflicts and even incurring losses. Thus, to maintain a healthy work environment and improve employee morale, corporates employ programmes like counselling, psychotherapy and special tours such as a few days at wellness retreats. However, they may not always yield desired results.

This is why many of the world’s most famous companies, including Google, Facebook and Intel, are turning to a solution known as ‘mindfulness’. Scientifically proven, mindfulness is simple and designed to benefit the body and mind by reducing stress, improving creativity, enhancing concentration and bolstering the immune system. The result is a rise in healthier employees and productivity. So how can a business manager cultivate mindfulness at the workplace? Here are some ways.

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Professional mindfulness experts know everything about the art and science of the system. They can be the best guides, trainers and teachers for the employees, most of whom are likely to have little to no understanding of such programmes and their associated benefits. Getting experts to work directly with the teams at the office, or even a factory, creates a more interpersonal bond between the trainer and the trainees. This helps in quick resolution of any query regarding mindfulness and a practical understanding of practices such as meditation that are integral to the discipline.

Many offices make it a point to highlight their activities during International Yoga Day. Photos of workers doing yoga are prominently featured on social media by businesses. Yet, only a few would make yoga part of the office culture — something that needs to be practiced daily. Yoga is an ancient Indian exercise that benefits the mind and the body. Everyone — from the manager to junior employees — can participate in regular yoga sessions.

Moreover, yoga is simple, effective and economical for both individuals and businesses. A professional yoga trainer can teach correct ways of breathing, the asanas (postures) and how to do them properly for the first few months. Thereafter, most would have learned yoga and adapted to the lifestyle, thus, negating the need for the trainer. There are several Instagram accounts of prominent yoga practitioners that employees can follow to remain connected to the discipline.

Conversations have many advantages. It is perhaps the best way to create new relationships, strengthen them and end conflicts. So, the top management must engage in conversations with employees and encourage talks across levels. Establishing contact across the company can be done by hosting town halls, webinars or simply creating online groups. Sharing mindfulness tips and messages through such interactions will result in more effective dissemination of the message. Regular group discussions can be held to inspire employees towards mindfulness activities. There is no need for an expert to moderate such sessions, as these can be done by motivated employees whose own experience with mindfulness would serve as inspiration for others.

Employees should be granted access to useful mindfulness apps for them to continue learning new ways for self-improvement. While some apps are free, others are paid. Businesses can purchase subscriptions for the paid ones and then share them with employees, who can then follow special content related to various types of meditations and other ways to increase mindfulness. Apps are handy and can be quickly checked into from home, office or any other place.

Businesses must keep the conversation going on mindfulness. The more the discussions on it, the more motivated the employees feel to follow mindfulness regimens. One way is to share tips and updates through official bulletins and newsletters. Encouraging quotes and information about the benefits of mindfulness can also be put up at places where employees gather and socialise, such as the cafeteria and conference rooms. The objective is to drive mindfulness into the minds of the employees, without being overly intrusive.

All things aside, a company must have a designated space for employees to undertake mindfulness exercises. Doing quick hand and body movements while at the desk may be somewhat relaxing, the best way, however, is to have a place within the office that is earmarked for exercises. This, in a way, boosts an employee’s eagerness to participate in mindfulness programmes. Similarly, a dedicated time slot should also be announced for practice. A set time makes the mind of an employee look forward to mindfulness sessions. This also helps employees plan their important tasks accordingly.

A research by Wharton revealed that there is no need for intensive weeks-long interventions for mindfulness to work well. Good results can also be obtained through short seven to eight minutes of mindfulness exercises. In fact, exercises can be as short as just taking three deep breaths between work.

Companies should let include short breaks in daily schedule or create an atmosphere that encourages quick and short interactions with mindfulness activities. Short breaks are healthy for the brain to regroup and refocus on thoughts, building chances of increased creativity.

Some companies occasionally organise an event called “mindful lunch”. It is a programme where employees eat their lunch together but in complete silence. The focus is solely on the food they are consuming. How does this help? Mindful eating practice ensures that the body and mind are aligned with the food that is being consumed, which leads to more appreciation about it and eventually, a more informed understanding of its effect on the body. Once it becomes a habit, a mindful eater will take small bites, chew thoroughly and eat slowly. All of these contribute to better digestion of the food and fewer chances of obesity.

Similarly, meetings and other events can be started with a few minutes of silence. Everyone in the meeting will devote those minutes to the moment and nothing else. As a result, the meeting would become more conflict-free and efficient.