There is no denying that we live in one of the most stressful times. Given the impact of stress at the workplace, employee wellness became a big topic of discussion in 2012-13 and became a ‘trend’ in 2014. Mindfulness hit the spotlight in 2015 and even in 2016 workplace stress is still a major area of concern. Mindfulness is a modern movement, appropriated from ancient Buddhist roots, and clinically innovated by Jon Kabat-Zinn. The practice of mindfulness involves being aware moment-to-moment, of one’s subjective conscious experience from a first-person perspective. When practising mindfulness, one becomes aware of one’s "stream of consciousness".
I would probably been ok with the pace of progress in this area had I not stumbled upon this TIME article. This disturbing Yale study points out that stress shrinks the brain! No wonder Google, Apple, Goldman Sachs, Monsanto, General Mills and countless others are frantic about encouraging employees to practice mindfulness. The negative effects of stress are well known and when you add to that the shrinking of the brain and reduced ability to cope with adversity, you end up with a less than ideal workspace and people not functioning at their best.
In 2015 alone, Talks at Google had close to 10 talks related to mindfulness. Applications like Headspace, Buddhify, the Mindfulness App, Omvana have begun to dominate phone space and for good reason. Practicing mindfulness isn’t necessarily time consuming as these apps have proven. As little as 10 minutes a day can help you focus, de-stress, and be more productive as well as creative at work. Practicing mindfulness has also shown a positive impact on job satisfaction and reduced emotional exhaustion. The benefits of mindfulness are many but what is important is that an organization asks itself a few questions before following this popular trend.
To begin with, one must know exactly why it is that you are investing in such a program. Will the program act as a Band-Aid on an existing issue or is it going to supplement your existing wellness programs. Mindfulness is not a solution to excessive stress at the workplace. While mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular and may lead organizations to view it as a necessity, it shouldn’t be viewed as the answer to your employee feedback on extreme stress. That issue needs to be targeted separately.
Secondly, figure out how you are going to position and run such a program. Will it be a part of your leadership training or is it going to be positioned as a wellness offering. Your pitch will determine the finer aspects of running the program. Also, offering this program in bite sized pieces through apps is a great option. You could choose also to just socialize the concept and let the employees take it from there. Unless you know the outcomes you hope to derive from the program and how you are positioning it, you will find it difficult to pick the best way of popularizing the concept.
Lastly, look at other options available. Companies have popularized yoga, stress release through colouring books and more. Unconventional ideas help break ice with sceptics.
One look at mindfulness adoption around the world and it is clear that it’s begun to play a key role at the workspace. Be it the meditation rooms at Google or their ‘Search inside Yourself’ program, organizations are moving fast to adopt mindfulness to help reduce bottom line and push productivity levels. If you haven’t jumped onto this bandwagon yet, 2016 is a fantastic time to do so.
Like Andy Puddicombe, mindfulness expert & founder of my favorite mindfulness app (Headspace) says, ‘All you need to do is to take 10 minutes out a day to step back, to familiarize yourself with the present moment so that you get to experience a greater sense of focus, calm and clarity in your life.’