Work smarter, not harder

Don’t get caught in the crazy-busy trap

Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE - BAR­BARA BOWES

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.

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