The Benefits of Mindfulness at Work
DHR’s Account Managers Emily Brennan and Sebastian Enke recently attended a breakfast briefing on ‘Mindfulness for Business’ which was organised by Irish Times Training. Today, Emily blogs about their experience at the briefing and what they learned from it.
I must admit to being somewhat of a mindfulness sceptic in the past, but I was eager to learn more about the practical applications of mindfulness in a work environment. The briefing was delivered by Lisa Hughes, facilitator, executive coach and MBSR (Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction) teacher, who spent many years working in the telecommunications industry.
The briefing started out with a short discussion on the meaning of mindfulness, which was succinctly described by one attendee as ‘being presently aware’. That is, you are aware and conscious of yourself and your body right now, in the present moment, and not focusing on your to-do list for the afternoon, or beating yourself up for not putting on the washing machine before leaving for work. Mindfulness MRSR Dublin describes mindfulness as: “The practice of paying attention to whatever is happening in the present moment with kindness towards ourselves and our experience and without judgement.” Mindfulness is not a way to achieve an altered state of consciousness, and it won’t provide you with fast solutions, rather it allows you to focus on your thoughts and feelings and facilitates you to consciously respond to situations that arise.
The current trendiness of mindfulness is largely down to Silicon Valley companies who have been adopting its principles, and Google has been leading the way by providing employees with free lessons in mindfulness as well as investing in scientific studies on its benefits. With increasing scientific backing, it looks like mindfulness is no passing fad!
Fight or Flight
Lisa continued the briefing with some common examples where the benefits of mindfulness can come into play.
According to Lisa, the majority of the human brain is exactly the same as that of an animal’s. Only a small percentage makes it human. So, if you find yourself in a work situation where you are being pulled every which way, or are suddenly handed a mammoth piece of work when you already have a full day of tasks ahead, the animal instinct kicks in and your body will go into flight mode – you might start to panic about the work ahead of you and physically become tense and agitated, causing you to spend more time worrying about the work than actually doing it. Lisa attempted to dispel the myth that multi-tasking is a good skill to have; instead we must be present and focus solely on the job in hand in order to complete a task to the best of our ability. We’re all guilty of thinking that being super busy doing a million things at once is a badge of honour – it’s not, and I have to say I agree with her!
Another benefit of practicing mindfulness is that it can increase empathic concern. As Lisa explained to us, empathic managers can greatly benefit businesses – they listen to their staff, recognise when they are in difficulty, and choose the right approach to solve individual problems. Staff will be happier, so customers and clients will be happier, and the bottom line will be off the radar!
Break up with your smartphone!
Another area of discussion at the briefing was how mindfulness can help us to re-evaluate our relationship with technology. Technology itself is not the root of all evil, rather our relationship with it, and this point really hit home with me. I am finding myself more and more distracted by my phone, in particular when I am trying to read books and wind down. There’s no point enforcing a digital ban on myself, nor do I want to, but I don’t need to reply to that Whatsapp message straight away. The world isn’t waiting with bated breath for me to like that tweet. (Or is it? Validate my life, Twitter!) Technology and smart phones are making us all increasingly reactive, rather than responsive. Instead of reacting to every communication that comes our way, according to Lisa, mindfulness will teach us to respond in a conscious and informed way, which will increase productivity.
We finished the briefing with a ten minute practical mindfulness exercise, which involved closing our eyes for ten minutes, focusing on our breathing and becoming aware of our bodies. When our minds started to wander, we brought it back to our breathing in order to remain in the present moment. It was definitely not the normal way I’d usually start my Thursday mornings, but it looks like I’m a mindfulness convert!
If you want to read more on mindfulness and its benefits to business, these articles I came across might be of interest: