Why Bring Mindfulness to Work?
Employees are more stressed than ever. According to a survey conducted by LinkedIn, nearly half of workers today feel stress in their jobs, with 70% of them feeling it from their workload and work-life balance. Gallup reports that 23% of employees feel burnout at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reports feeling it sometimes.
By training us to pay attention moment-by-moment to where we are and what we’re doing, mindfulness can help us choose how we will behave, nudging (or jolting) us out of autopilot mode. Here are four ways mindfulness transforms how we work.
- Allows you to keep an open, curious mind
- Teaches you the skill of responding, rather than reacting
- Helps you remember that your thoughts are not facts
- Builds healthy habits that cultivate creative potential
How You Can Bring Mindfulness to Your Workplace
1) Lead by Example
Jeff Weiner, the CEO of LinkedIn, has spoken publicly about mindfulness, meditation, and using apps, which helps create “an umbrella of acceptance,” Shute says. Seeing execs sitting and breathing alongside lower-level employees is an important recognition that these practices are beneficial for everyone.
“Leadership is then saying that it’s okay to take care of yourself at work.”
“When company leaders participate, showing up for programs and practicing in community mindfulness sessions, they give permission to practice and accept that these skills work,” says Parneet Pal, the Chief Science Officer at Wisdom Labs, which provides LinkedIn with mindfulness programming. “Leadership is then saying that it’s okay to take care of yourself at work.”
2) Build Community
Mindful leaders encourage building community around these practices and start integrating them into everyday work life, along with programs that include an ambassador or community leader. “Go where the energy is and find the people who are excited and let them lead,” says Shute.
When companies build an in-house teacher base, it creates an internal multiplier, according to Bostelmann. “Our trainers are like 42 lighthouses that are really passionate and love doing it,” he adds. “After five years they are still eager to do the trainings.”
Infineon launched its InMind mindfulness program in September 2018 and currently offers employees information sessions, peer-led mindfulness sessions, a website that provides information and resources, and a distribution list used to communicate with other practitioners and grow the community.
3) Accessibility is Key
Employees may be along the spectrum of behavior change, notes Pal. “We designed products to offer a 360-degree accessibility point for people to dip their toes in to try, to get information and then actually experience practices themselves.”
With more than 14,000 employees, LinkedIn uses a smartphone app to spread mindfulness practices. “Try to offer something for everyone in their mindfulness journey,” suggests Shute. Once a year, the company proposes a 30-day challenge, offering employees a chance to enter a raffle for prizes if they meditate 20 times in 30 days. Then, armed with a list of registrants—obviously interested in mindfulness—the company offers weekly community meetings, where practitioners watch a brief video with guided practice, build some skills, and in turn, a growing community.
4) Define Language and Structure
Tech companies tend to approach mindfulness in a science-based, secular way. “It’s crucial to understand the audience, know their values and speak in language that resonates with them,” says Kai Stowers, Organization Transformation and Change Specialist at Infineon. “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of actively seeking feedback and using it to improve your mindfulness program.”
“It’s important to have a clear structure about what it is and what it isn’t,” says Bostelmann. “We teach only what is backed by neuroscience and evidence of positive psychology, and are careful about language. We want people who are well trained in mindfulness, and practices that involves kindness and compassion.”
5) Bring Mindfulness into Company Culture
“More and more we do a ‘mindful minute to arrive’ in meetings, giving people a chance to pause and settle in,” says Bostelmann. “With these micro practices, people meditate within a business environment and see that you don’t need to escape or go to a mountain top—you can do it sitting in your office chair.”
Other suggestions for bringing mindfulness into the workplace culture include device-free meetings and a dedicated quiet room for meditation and reflection.
6) Share Resources
Creating an intranet page will keep employees up to date on any mindfulness programming and related events. Post articles, videos, and podcasts to raise awareness. “Although the subject of mindfulness goes back thousands of years, the resources that have proven to be the most accessible to the audience are the scientific literature and authors who base their work on research,” says Stowers. His favorites include Chade Meng-Tan, Daniel Goleman, Dan Harris, and Kristin Neff.
7) Communicate with Leadership
Mindfulness programs can be formulated from either the top-down (LinkedIn) or the bottom-up (SAP), but according to Fernandez, it’s most effective when there are an internal champion and senior sponsorship. “If people are organizing meditation groups, it creates fertile ground for a senior leader to formally bring in some teachers, or allocate a space, or make it a part of the wellness agenda,” he says. “When employees do this organically, they can get the attention of executives which can be helpful, or a legendary leader can say, ‘Here’s why it’s aligned with our culture and here are solutions to provide,’ and invite people to join.” Both are useful to cultivate for bringing mindfulness practices into an organization.