Work smarter, not harder
Don’t get caught in the crazy-busy trap
IN an ever-changing profession, human-resource managers are continually seeking new ideas on how to assist employees to be the best they can be. With this in mind, HR professionals are now seeing the trend of “mindfulness” being introduced to more organizations. Mindfulness is described both as a mental state as well as a set of skills and techniques related to the ability to focus on and observe one’s own feelings, thoughts and sensations during the present moment.
Initially utilized in psychology to relieve anxiety, depression, addictions and obsessive-compulsive behaviours, the art of mindfulness is now being taught in organizations as a means for employees to learn to handle their emotions, pause in the moment and choose to respond in a more skilful way. In other words, mindfulness teaches people to think before they act and/or be aware of what they are doing while they are doing it.
It’s amazing to realize in our crazy-busy world how often we are on autopilot and simply react. For instance, how many of us have typed up and sent off a snarky email to a friend or colleague only to immediately regret it? How many of us have overreacted to a message or comment from our family or friends only to find we misunderstood? Yes, that’s the fallout from autopilot: acting before thinking.
In fact, one of the fastest-growing and popular descriptions for our work life today is the acronym PAID. This refers to pressure, always on, information overload and distracted. Gosh, how true!
Mindfulness is seen as a new way to return personal power to employees. It teaches specific tools so employees can live life to the fullest and be the best team members they can be. The focus is on helping employees pay attention to the task at hand without getting disturbed by other thoughts or activities. It’s about working smarter, not harder. Gone is the idea that employees should be pushed to multi-task. No. Instead, teach them to focus.
Mindfulness has also been proven to reduce employee stress, help maintain objectivity, create more compassion and help employees stop being reactive. When they are able to regain their personal power, they can more successfully build trust with their colleagues and be a better team member.
In spite of the fact that tuning into our emotions feels somewhat foreign to most of us, many organizations are beginning to implement training courses to help teach mindfulness to employees. Programs range from onehour introductory sessions to two-day immersion programs to programs that are delivered weekly for several months.
These programs offer employees several techniques on how to implement mindfulness, including using the acronym RAIN to a situation. In this case, the “R” directs individuals to recognize when a strong emotion is present. The letter “A” is used to acknowledge that an emotion does indeed exist. The “I” is used to investigate and bring self-inquiry to the body, feelings, and mind. The letter “N” stands for non-identifying with your emotion. In other words, recognizing that the emotion is simply a state of mind and does not define the person.
Training course participants are taught to stand back and view their emotions as if they were seeing a movie, watching the actors at play. Applying this RAIN concept helps people better understand what motivates them.
Another popular technique used to reduce stress at the end of a work day is to apply the acronym STOP. The letter “S” means to immediately stop what you are doing just for a minute. The letter “T” means to take a breath. Breathe in and out for just a minute. The letter “O” refers to observing your thoughts, feelings and emotions. Take a minute to reflect about what is on your mind. Recognize that thoughts are not facts; simply notice the thoughts and carry on. Identify any emotions you are feeling. Naming them is calming. Notice your posture. The letter “P” refers to looking for and proceeding with finding a support. Find a friend.
A third popular approach to mindfulness is good oldfashioned walking. During your walk, think about the past year and appreciate what you have accomplished. Be thankful for small things. Be thankful for being able to walk freely. Be conscious of your physical being, pay attention to the feelings of your feet and legs as you are walking. Say to yourself, “heel, foot, toes, lift” as this connects you to the present moment. Walk slowly, observe and open your awareness to everything around you. Smell the air, taste the air, listen to the sounds. Stop and see how many senses you can apply. Create your own mantra while you walk as this will bring you back and keep you focused.
Mindfulness is being applied in organizations such as McKinsey, Procter & Gamble, Apple, Astra Zeneca, Google and Yahoo, as well as high-profile union organizations. The purpose isn’t to simply copy these organizations but to look at mindfulness as a potential tool that has proven to successfully help reduce employee stress. Let’s face it, we know that multitasking is a dream. We know that multitasking reduces productivity by as much as 20 to 40 per cent, so why not look at a simple, cost-effective strategy such as mindfulness?
The goal of any organization should be to create a work environment where employees feel safe, where they feel a sense of well-being and a sense of accomplishment. Mindfulness training and tools appear to have the power to give workers practical solutions that can be used to create personal well-being either at home or at work.
While mindfulness might be a relatively new concept to readers, it is far from the typical fly-by-night trendy bandwagon concept. Instead, it is a well-established practice that’s been proven within the world of psychology and within the world of work. Perhaps it’s time to take a serious look at it for your company or just for yourself. There’s no reason you can’t take responsibility to explore and apply this concept on your own.