Previously I looked at how mindfulness in the workplace can have benefits for the productivity of our businesses, as well as the mental wellbeing of employers and employees alike. In the past week, for instance, have you found yourself listening to conversations but being unable to recall what was being said? Have you eaten meals without tasting them? Driven to a destination without realising quite how you got there?
Our increasingly high-octane lives are leading many of us to zone out regularly, always thinking about the next task to be done, rather than concentrating on the present. Paying more attention to our thoughts, feelings and the world around us is the central premise of mindfulness and it is unsurprising that increasing numbers of employers are recognising the host of benefits the trend has to offer.
This is all very well, of course, but how does it work on a practical level? Short of handing out self-help manuals to staff at work, what can employers actually do to allow their employees to be more mindful? Here are five practical, easy-to-implement ideas for you to try in 2016.
1. Being mindful is not a cure-all solution
Today’s workplace environments are dynamic, fast-paced arenas with targets to be met and ever more to achieve. Working to our limits, however, can lead to exhaustion, poor morale and poor productivity overall. It is important to recognise that mindfulness does not take these stresses or conflicts away but rather focuses on how our bodies and minds are feeling, thus teaching us how to deal with emotions. If staff are constantly stressed and feeling overworked, being mindful will help but there will be other underlying factors to address first.
2. One minute meditation
A very simple technique, the one minute meditation can easily be built into the working day. Consider introducing them during breaks, for instance, which are meant to refresh us but so often end up being extensions of work as we battle to finish something, check our emails or catch-up on calls. In a quiet place, relax, close your eyes and focus all of your attention on your breathing. Notice where your breath is coming from and how this makes you feel. Allow the calm to wash over you. By doing this a few times a day, a worker can leave their break with a sharper focus and improved clarity of mind, which can only be a positive thing in terms of productivity.
3. Be present in your interactions
Another simple technique that has endless benefits in the workplace is to encourage everybody to be fully “present” when they are interacting with others. These days it is all too easy to be browsing email inboxes while also chatting on the phone or thinking about what needs to be done after lunch when you are in a meeting. By totally stopping what we are doing and giving our full attention to the person we are speaking to, however, we can fully understand what is being asked of us, foster better interpersonal relationships in the workplace and, as a consequence, improve the productivity of everybody in the business.
4. Mindful eating
Too many of us gobble our lunches on the go or at our desks, neither being good for our digestion or our stress levels. Take a stand against this and encourage workers to be mindful eaters. Stop all eating at desks and create a comfortable, pleasant space where food can be enjoyed and you can focus on its colours, textures and tastes. This will allow employees to return to their workspaces refreshed and more focused.
5. Just walk!
It’s tempting to dash to meetings while simultaneously texting or chatting to clients on your mobile. Create a culture where walking is just that. Feel the ground beneath your feet, concentrate on your breathing and greet colleagues in the corridor as you go! Mindfully walking at work will give you greater sense of purpose and preparation for the meeting or conference you are about to enter.
By Stephen Canning, as published in The Huffington Post on 1st January 2016