Turn off, tune in: Mindfulness in the workplace

I’m a huge fan of Tim Ferriss, the hugely successful entrepreneur, angel investor/advisor (think Facebook, Twitter and Uber), public speaker and author of the bestseller The 4-Hour Workweek. His podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show, has over 70 million downloads and he is thought of as today’s self-help guru. On his podcast, he interviews highly successful people, dissecting their habits and lifestyles in order to provide listeners with lessons on how to make their lives more positive, successful, and productive. I listen every week.

“There are some easy ways to promote mindfulness in the workplace.” Carly Telpner, Head of Canadian Marketing

Most of Tim’s interviewees make some form of daily mindfulness or meditation a habit. The definition on mindfulness is “the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis”. It allows practitioners to respond to themselves and others with greater consideration.

The positive outcomes of this practice are discussed over and over again on the show (more specifically during his interview with Tara Brach) and, of course, beyond the world of podcasting. Over the last 30 years a tremendous amount of research has shown the quantifiable effects of mindfulness. Regular practice actually changes the structure of the brain and improves people’s immune systems. It reduces stress, as measured by heart-rate variability and cortisol levels. This evidence points to the massive benefits for everyone of taking on regular mindfulness practices and down time to rejuvenate themselves both physically and mentally

Some forward-thinking companies have rolled out employee mindfulness programs at scale (think Ford, Google, Target and even Goldman Sachs), recognizing that today’s employee is bombarded with constant information overload and needs mindfulness more than ever. Aetna, a U.S. benefits provider, estimates that instituting a mindfulness program it has saved $2,000 per employee in health care costs and gained around $3,000 per employee in productivity. Mindful employees are healthier, more focused and more productive.

There are some easy ways to promote mindfulness in the workplace. Like so many employee wellness programs, the best-case scenario for success starts with buy-in from leadership that ties into an overall wellness vision for employees. There are numerous resources available to help build the right program; at the very least here are some activities you can integrate into your employee wellness program.

A few things people can do in the workplace to create more mindfulness include:

  • Pausing to re-read an email before hitting “send”
  • Clearing the mind before calling a co-worker or customer
  • Focusing on the person they’re speaking to and coming back to them if the mind wanders
  • Performing one task at a time to be more effective

Mindfulness through meditation

Greater mindfulness can be achieved through regular meditation. Mediation doesn’t have to be sitting on the floor for 20 minutes every morning chanting “OM”. There are a variety of regular meditative practices for achieving positive change. For some it could be less daunting to sit quietly and listen to a favourite song or two each day. Others, myself included, find running to be the best form of active meditation to quiet the mind. Offer meditation classes in your office space or encourage the use of apps like Calm and Headspace for guided practice. It’s also imperative to provide employees with time and space to achieve their mindfulness goals. Create a quiet space for employees to take some time to themselves, and give them the permission to shut off their email for a period of time each day or after work hours.

We can work collectively towards a more open and calm workplace culture. Mindfulness Institute of Canada has professional development programs to support mindfulness work. Or you can contact the Canadian Mindfulness Centre for guidance on workplace programs. We need to keep educating ourselves, our leaders and our employees on the benefits of mindfulness. We all need to “turn off” to “tune in”.

Your turn: Do you practice some form of mindfulness in your workplace? Let us know how it’s working in the comment box below.

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