Hannah Loveday explores meaningful engagement with mindfulness and meditation practices at work
A close city worker friend recently boasted that they had been meditating with a Tibetan monk on their lunch break, provided by their employer - impressive, I thought.
Can we say the corporate world is on its way to enlightenment? Ok, that may well be a tad far-fetched, but what we can say is that it is widening its once narrow and rigid perspective to let in a more educated and compassionate approach.
Employee wellbeing has been receiving well-deserved and increased attention in recent times, with employers realising that good mental health is key to overall health when it comes to an effective and resilient workforce.
There is a lot of competition out there in this talented and expensive city, the pressure is on throughout many industries, so there are many benefits when implementing a wellbeing strategy for staff. The nine-to-five has shifted and no one wants to be out of a job in the current climate.
Many are even coming into work when they are unwell (presenteeism) and are some using annual leave or unpaid overtime to complete tasks (leaveism). In a nutshell, there is room for employers to embrace new ideas and alternative solutions that are relevant to a younger generation keen to engage with their physical and emotional wellbeing. This is where mindfulness in the workplace steps in.
But like anything it is not enough just to throw in a short presentation during Mental Health Week or have a yoga teacher pop in once or twice a year. A consistent assessment and feedback strategy needs to be set, helping employers to have a regular routine to help relieve work-related stress, family stress, financial stress… any kind of stress you can think of.
Many organisations are taking steps to offer wellbeing benefits to employers and reduce stress in the workplace. The importance of work/life balance has been recognised and employers are becoming more flexible with hours/working from home days and employee assistance and support programmes.
The CIPD's 2019 health and wellbeing survey report states that nearly three-fifths of companies have seen an increase in the number of reported common mental health conditions, such as anxiety and depression among employees in the last 12 months. Most employers surveyed provide one or more wellbeing benefits to employers, however there is still work to be done as only a third report their organisation takes a continuous improvement/feedback loop approach and less than a quarter (22%) critically assess the quality of wellbeing outcomes for those that participate in activities.
The companies I have worked with have all reported back that mindfulness in the workplace training I have delivered has had a positive impact their employers, inside and out of work.
Mindfulness does in fact change your life when practiced regularly, and below are some of my top tips to incorporating mindfulness in the workplace to reduce stress, tame the monkey mind, improve attention spans and lift office morale!
- Hired mindfulness and wellbeing consultants offer training for all staff, and ongoing sessions weekly, fortnightly or monthly which can be highly effective.
- Many companies now have appointed mental health first aiders and these individuals would particularly benefit from mindfulness training to continue with their staff in between visits. Weekly ‘mindful reminders' bulletin emails are a good way of providing advice to staff.
- Offering a meditation space is highly recommended - something some high-profile firms already have in place.
- Having your mobile phone insight or close to you at work is dangling the carrot. We are all addicted to dopamine (a chemical released when we check our phone) so unless it is imperative to have your mobile phone on at work, make sure the WIFI/mobile data is off until allocated breaks, so that you are in control. You will be amazed at the subconscious pull we have to check our phones in between tasks and how clearer and more alert you feel when you remove the temptation. After all each time you look at your phone you are lowering your concentration span and focus.
- Some managers might not favour me for this, but skipping lunch is unproductive! Work can be high pressured at times, therefore stressful. Taking a break to do some mindful breathing, listening to some calming music and staying present as you eat, or a walk around the block to clear your head, will increase your attention, clarity, creativity and effectiveness for the rest of the day. If you have a green space make the most of that!
- Swap checking your ‘social media break' or ‘fag break' for a ‘mindful break'. A short walk, short meditation in a quiet place benefits us in so many ways. Even just 10 minutes will lower cortisol (which contributes towards cancer) you will reduce your DMN levels (default mode network) in the brain, aka the ‘time-travelling monkey mind' which lowers attention spans and contributes towards depression. This in turn cultivates self-esteem - win-win, I say!
- Do not multitask. Once you incorporate the practice of mindfulness, you realise that mindfulness translates into everything we do. The Harvard Business Review states that multitasking negatively affects performance and can reduce productivity by 40%, making us less efficient and more likely to make mistakes. This is due to the cognitive load impairing our memories. I know some of you think you ‘kick ass' at multitasking but it is not healthy. Eventually you are also affecting your psychological wellbeing, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted which increases the stress hormone cortisol, which when increased further impedes your cognitive functioning.
- Do not check emails/LinkedIn at the weekend. If you are conscientious and dedicated during working hours, why are you checking your emails at the weekend? Give yourself the breathing space and instead be present in whatever it is you are doing living your life with family or friends!
The long and short of it? Be more present in your life, fully arrive, really show up - in and out of work. Your conscious attention is a precious resource; distribute and spend it wisely!
Hannah Loveday is the founder of Lovedaywellbeing