There are so many and varied demands on people at work these days, so it is easy to put mindfulness on the backburner; on the to-do list, on the “we will get around to it at some time” list. However; when you explore the science, it is absolutely compelling that the workplace in particular really benefits from mindful practices being embedded as part of their culture.
We now know that the average person spends 47% of the time thinking about something other than what they are doing (Killingsworth 2010; Mindful Leadership Institute, 2010). Surely just bringing people’s focus back to that major project; that big decision they are making; that person right in front of them will help your organisation to get things done. In addition, given what we know about what Dr Rick Hanson refers to as “our negativity bias, the fact that we have a mind that is Velcro for negative thoughts and Teflon for positive ones” we can anticipate that the average person when they are not focused on the task at hand is more likely to be thinking about something negative – a previous interaction that did not go well or something that is looming.
So, despite all your efforts to provide a safe workplace, wherever they have gone to in their head is not safe. In fact it starts the stress response; so this will then be their platform from which they are working, working for you. This is of course before they even attend to the very real stressors associated with their working world. Do you want this to be your team’s starting point?
For me as a workplace mediator, this one makes even more sense. Believe me, once the email is sent and the words are spoken it is much harder to get that train back into the station. It is all about prevention when it comes to workplace relationships. It seems like a pretty simple choice. As a manager do you want to be getting the work done, kicking goals, completing projects or do you want to spend your time managing conflict in your workplace.
Research shows us that managers can spend up to 50% of their time managing conflict within the workplace. What else could you be doing with that time? So, a workplace where mindful practices are introduced and embedded into the workplace culture is a workplace where people are taught to, and are then able to, respond and not react to their colleagues. We know that once the stress response starts we are more likely to act from a position where our amygdala is hijacked and we are not using the executive functioning that is actually going to allow us to see the long term consequences of our actions and choose wisely. When the amygdala is running the show, anything can be said to a colleague or at a meeting or sent in an email without real consideration of the consequences. Surely, we can recognise that this is not a “safe” workplace. As Viktor Frankl’s says:
“Between stimulus and response there is space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
In a workplace where people have the tools to re-center they have that space, and when that space is in teams there is more harmony. For you as a manager that literally means more; more time for you and more time for your team to get the job done. It is also a workplace where people can feel safe.
With mindfulness embedded in your culture we can now see how it can lead to your team having more focus and more emotional clarity. People are getting things done and getting on well together. It makes sense that when this platform is in place you have a greater opportunity to really take off as a team. In fact, in their research through Project Aristotle, Google identified the best determinate of team effectiveness is psychological safety. It seems that by giving people the tools to re-center and reset throughout the work day, be it through sitting practices or integrated practices, your team is more likely to:
a) Feel safe within themselves by directing their focus during the day and steering it away from that negativity bias.
b) Interact more safely with their colleagues in a more deliberate, considered and considerate way by not being led by an overactive amygdala.
Most workplaces would identify safety as their number one priority. Mindfulness practices in the workplace can assist with the focus and the emotional clarity that are the building blocks for a safe workplace.
I know you have considered mindfulness for your team and perhaps you feel there is too much on at the moment, but you probably need to be asking yourself if not now, then when?