Large scale companies are establishing mindfulness programmes in their droves. But why? Here are 5 critical reasons
Those with careers in the corporate world understand that it can sometimes be a challenging environment to operate in. Multiple meetings and tight deadlines can leave us feeling exhausted by the end of the working day. Add to the mixture office politics, the distractions of email notifications and taps on the shoulder and we've got a formula for a fair amount of stress.
Stress is a massive cost to business
Recent research from the Health & Safety Executive uncovered that a massive 45% of sick days taken in the UK are due to stress. This equates to 9.9 million working days lost per year, having a huge impact on not just individual wellbeing but business productivity. Across the economy the estimated cost is £8.4 billion a year and for a large organisation, this can run into the £millions.
Obviously there are multiple factors at work here, but many would vouch that a large element of stress in the workplace comes down to our "always on" culture.
The modern day working environment is more connected than ever. Cast your mind back just over a decade to the advent of the BlackBerry, or CrackBerry as it was often fondly known. All of a sudden the line between work and personal life became blurred. Many resisted, many complained, however in today's society, constant availability is no longer questioned at all. For many of us, the only time we seem to get some respite is when we are asleep. This quote from Peter Arvai sums it up nicely:
"the concept of always being reachable makes us present nowhere"
So we have a strong case for change...
The case for mindfulness
When we think about it, it is very easy to separate our minds from the moment we're in. Thoughts of what has already happened and what will happen are constantly on our minds. Then there is the concept of "elsewhere" - the emails from our boss, conversations on Whatsapp, our Facebook, Twitter & Instagram news feeds...
Mindfulness is about cultivating awareness, or being fully present in the moment you're in. It is essentially a modern take on the ancient Buddhist concept of "Sati", which roughly translates as awareness and remembrance. In the modern sense, this remembrance relates to the activities you are engaged in right now, like breathing. It's popularity has been gaining momentum over recent years as a means to find better balance in a hectic modern world.
In one of our recent workshops, I asked the group to discuss what they did on their commute this morning. Most people responded that they had been checking and responding to emails, scrolling through the news and social media, even sleeping. So we are all aware of what we do moment by moment, right? Not completely. When I asked people to think about how they felt in themselves, both physically and emotionally, I was met with looks of surprise...
Being mindful in your daily activities doesn't mean just paying attention to what you do, it's about how you do it too. To be mindful is to be aware of how you are feeling, to understand how your emotions drive your reactions and behaviour, and to know how to work with them. It's not just about being aware of your external environment, but your internal environment too.
Many large scale organisations have already jumped on the bandwagon and implemented mindfulness programs, including Google, Apple, Sony, Ikea and Transport for London. This indicates that it is becoming popular in companies at the leading edge of innovation in their field. It seems that society is finally starting to realise the benefits of this ancient practice.
But why is mindfulness important for the workplace?
Organisations are complex entities; they are living, breathing ecosystems of people and all of their behaviours, thoughts & emotions. We can't always control the situation around us, but we can control the way we react to it and how we approach its challenges. Here are just some of the ways that mindfulness can help us navigate the corporate world with greater ease:
1) Mindfulness increases focus and productivity
Being in the present moment allows you to concentrate on the task in hand, instead of worrying about what's already done, what's happening elsewhere or what might happen in the future. It creates awareness of what needs to get done, what the priorities are and clarity over how to respond.
2) Mindfulness fosters better communication
Mindfulness is scientifically proven to improve emotional regulation and decrease reactivity. It allows us to be more aware of our emotions and therefore choose how we react to and deal with them - the more stable we are in ourselves, the less undesirable behaviours we exhibit. It also makes us better listeners, as the stillness and space it creates in the mind makes us more able to consider what others have to say. This counts for verbal signals as well as finer elements of communication such as tone of voice and body language.
3) Mindfulness boosts creativity
We rarely come up with inspiration when our minds are full. Emptying your mind of thoughts about the past and future gives space for new ideas and solutions to problems to surface. There are studies to show that mindfulness meditation reduces cognitive rigidity, which is characterised by a tendency to apply difficult or outdated solutions to easy problems based on past experience. It also improves the brain's ability to establish new neural connections, which are associated with increased ability to learn.
4) Mindfulness gives your mental muscles a good workout
Meditation is scientifically proven to have multiple positive effects on the brain and is effective in treating conditions such as depression and anxiety disorders. It has even been found to physically change the structure of parts of the brain which deal with decision making, memory, attention and cognitive flexibility (the ability to multitask more effectively). Just like going to the gym is a good workout for the muscles, mindfulness meditation is the equivalent for the mind, improving mental performance.
5) You can do it with your team
Doing mindfulness training as a team makes it a collective effort. We spend a lot of time with our colleagues, sometimes more than our spouses. Working is a group effort, and emotions are often contagious. Even if you have your own mindfulness practice, often there are 1 or 2 culprits who make it difficult for you to work mindfully in reality - the emails at 10pm, the constant interruptions, the unreasonable demands, the emotional outbursts... If you share your mindfulness experience together, you're more likely to incorporate it into the way you work as a team.
Overall, it generally creates a more positive environment, and less stress means more content people. The more content people you have around, the more positive the environment is. We generally spend 8 hours a day at work - it is important to make it a great place to be.
Urban Guru provides mindfulness workshops and yoga classes specifically tailored to the corporate environment. Help boost your employees' resilience and wellbeing through our packages. Sign up now for unbeatable discounts until the end of January.
About Urban Guru:
We improve the efficiency of your workforce. Our corporate yoga & mindfulness workshops lower employee stress, helping your people find balance in a hectic world.
Our corporate yoga and mindfulness workshops are provided direct to your employees onsite, making the benefits easy to access. As an employer of choice, you can give them the opportunity to take a short break from the relentless working day, to reset and relax…
Urban Guru's corporate yoga & mindfulness offering is specifically designed to strengthen the body and de-clutter the mind. This in turn makes your people more resilient to stress and better able to cope with the challenges thrown their way. Overall it helps you make the most of what they have to offer.