Mindful Work Life
And just like that, 2019 is just about over!
Wow, and hasn’t it crept up on us… again! From juggling demanding work deadlines, squeezing in last-minute meetings, fuelling up on strong coffees in the last throws to Christmas, to sleeping-off yet another year of work Christmas party regrets (Argh! Why I did I get on the dancefloor?!), to making the big decisions ahead of Christmas day (fruit cake or pavlova?) and to losing our sanity in never-ending queues as we bust our wallets with Christmas shopping surrounded by piercing American jingles. Now, what was the email I needed to send tonight?
No wonder we’re struggling to remember things, getting sick, feeling burnt-out and dreaming of a summer escape… oh serenity! We are rushing around stressed to the max, not enjoying work, blindly passing beautiful moments by and we are not living our happiest selves. Like every year, we fool ourselves into thinking we will be calmer for the next festive season… yet we do nothing. We need to find an oasis in our busy, chaotic lives – especially at work. We need to find an inner calm and a new curiosity, to be more present with our loved ones, and to preserve our wellbeing. Mindfulness is the antidote.
What is mindfulness? While mindfulness has roots in Buddhist traditions, it’s not just for hippies. In fact, it’s been extensively researched and praised throughout Psychology and Medicine, and its benefits are incredibly impressive. Mindfulness is a state of being in which individuals bring greater attention to their present experiences with openness, curiosity, compassion and without judgment. It’s about being aware and acknowledging inner (thoughts, emotions and intentions) and external experiences without automatically labelling, analysing or renumerating on them. Mindfulness can be practised in two ways; either by a formal sit-down meditation or by integrating an improved, mindful attention to every-day life. Practising both, is recommended to improve your wellbeing, life enjoyment and your work life. Mindfulness is a simple concept, with great benefits.
Smiling Mind™ lists and explores the benefits of workplace mindfulness from collating extensive and significant empirical research:
– Reduced absenteeism and presenteeism
– Increased retention of skilled staff
– Positive creative working environment
– Support staff with mental health condition
– Increased engagement
– Increased productivity and attention
– Anxiety reduction and stress management skills
– Clearer, more focused thinking
– Heightened performance
– Increased resilience
– Increased positive emotion, life satisfaction and self-esteem beyond workplace
Mindfulness is also beneficial for the coming future – especially in terms of leveraging emotional intelligence for competitive advantage.
Emotional intelligence (EI) and mindfulness
It’s common knowledge that over the next decade, as artificial intelligence continues to increase, a significant emphasis will be made on more human skills; empathy, listening, influencing, persuading, emotional intelligence and leadership. Mindfulness is an important foundation to all human soft skills, and to company success.
“Everybody knows this EI thing is good for their career” Google’s Chade-Meng Tan told Wired. “And every company knows that if their people have EI, they’re gonna make a shitload of money”.
So, how does Google leverage emotional intelligence through mindfulness?
Since 2007, Google has pioneered mindfulness in the workplace. They run “Search Inside Yourself” workshops which are training sessions on how to practise mindfulness and how to cultivate a mindful attitude to work. They’re the most popular class at Google, with a six-month waitlist! Googlers are practising mindfulness not just to maintain a positive mental health, but they are using it to better understand their co-workers’ motivations, to reduce conflicts, to work better in teams and to cultivate an improved emotional intelligence – a characteristic that tends to be low amongst engineers. But it’s not just Google who is reaping the mindfulness benefits and enhancing their business growth, other multinational companies like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Ford have already integrated mindfulness across organisations to boost productivity and employee satisfaction, and to leverage success through their people. Mindfulness is not only about nurturing people and teams, it’s an important component to a competitive advantage.
Perhaps your company is not a Google or a Facebook, but there’s a lot to learn from these pioneering organisations who are always steps ahead of the curve and who set the bar high for the rest of the corporate world. To better understand how these benefits come about and how they can be achieved, we first need to understand what mindfulness pinpoints in ourselves.
Did you know that our fight-flight response is often over-activated? This leads to physiological wear and tear such as immune dysfunction, impaired glucose levels, thinning of bones and cardiovascular issues. This over-activation also damages the hippocampus (our learning and memory brain centres) and the prefrontal cortex (our working memory and high function centres). Have you ever felt so stressed that you battled to remember things? Or got run-down? If you ever wanted to speed up ageing… then don’t change anything. Practising mindfulness calms the activation of our fight-flight response, prevents health problems and slows ageing. The simple act of practising mindfulness engages our sensory and attention brain areas – gives them a hefty work-out – which improves our physical and mental wellbeing down to our genes.
“It’s not the things themselves, but our opinions about the things that trouble us.” Greek Stoic Philosopher Epiktet.
The reason why our fight-flight response is over-active is because we negatively appraise situations as a threat, too often! At work we are regularly confronted with challenging situations, which means that negatively appraising a situation is easy to do. However, practising mindfulness helps facilitate an adaptive appraisal to stressful situations. A mindful attitude leads the stress-inducing situation to be viewed with less negative reactions and more positive judgment of one’s work. It can also promote self-determined behaviour where we act in accordance to our values, leading to more full-filling work and job satisfaction.
The way that we appraise our work, ultimately influences our engagement and performance. A 2019 survey by Gallup – a leading global analytics firm – found that globally 85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengage at work. The majority of employees frequently appraise their work negatively. As a result, a lack of passion, innovation and care negatively influences individual performance, team performance and overall workplace enjoyment. Employee engagement has a large impact on business outcomes. Thankfully, a mindful attitude can improve employee engagement, performance and emotional wellbeing.
The experience of stress emerges not only from the event itself, but also from the appraisal of the events as negative and exceeding their coping capacity. Emotional exhaustion is the core component to burnout, and commonly found in the service sector. Employees are confronted with emotional labour; they face emotionally charged encounters and they need to manage/disguise their true emotions to maintain an excellent service façade. Emotional labour makes employees prone to emotional exhaustion and reduced job satisfaction. Studies have shown that practising mindfulness influences an employee’s stress appraisal and significantly reduces emotional exhaustion and improves their job satisfaction! People who enjoy their work, are not only more motivated and more committed, they perform much better!
Take a deep breath and smile, you now know what mindfulness is.
So what’s next?
It’s time to live and work mindfully moving forwards. Christmas is only 1 day away – I know right, crazy! Remember to be present, to connect, to cherish and to be grateful this Christmas period with a mindful attitude. 2020 is around the corner and fast-approaching. Make a promise to yourself and to your company’s future success in kick-starting the New Year on a more positive and prosperous note by encouraging a mindful attitude at work. Steople offers excellent resources on mindfulness in order to leverage team and leadership performance for enhanced business success. Contact us, to find out how we can help your workplace.