We’re still making apologies for mindfulness.
Have you attended a team meeting and watched as a leader apologises for attempting a mindfulness exercise?
Mindfulness is fast gaining acceptance by individuals, but practice within Australian workplaces is lagging. A mindful practice is still considered something you can do ‘in your own time’—unless you count token flag-waving during mental health week.
We still hesitate to talk about emotions at work, despite the fact that we are emotional beings who can learn much through reflective and mindful practice.
Mindfulness surely sits neatly with discussions on compassion, ethical decision-making, and self-management. However, too few organisations promote mindfulness as a real tool to support employee well-being. Or if they do, it’s flavoured with an apology rather than modelled and thoughtfully implemented.
We shouldn’t feel like we need forbearance for promoting a mindful practice.
Our workplaces benefit from having team members who are present, aware of who they are and what they’re doing, and who can avoid becoming overwhelmed by workload.
“‘…the growth of mindfulness in the workplace is the logical next step in the movement toward greater corporate social responsibility’.” ~David Gelles*
The research about the benefits of mindfulness is persuasive—even if you’re not someone who’s attracted to meditation ‘and all that stuff’.
Admittedly, there might be contributing factors…
The Sydney Morning Herald has run several articles questioning the benefits of mindfulness, including ‘Workplace resilience: It’s all a great big con’. It’s the usual media hoodwink. Another headline grab designed to mislead and confuse. Unless you read the whole article, you’re likely to believe building resilience (and mindfulness) is a bad thing. The article states: ‘you can’t meditate …problems away’.
You might be led to believe mindfulness is just the latest fad. At the very least the Herald is likely to make you wonder whether the author has ever tried meditation. Or reflection. In reality, interest in mindfulness has been a slow burn and only recently exploded on the web.
Headlines like these promote a culture of doubt and insecurity. The Herald needn’t bother. A report on workplace culture improvements to the NSW Ministry of Health says team members are sceptical even without their help. Add to the fact that vulnerability is too often considered a weakness in competitive office environments, and you have plenty of negative voices sufficient to nurture a sorry mentality.
Our ability to meaningfully speak to mindfulness in Australian workplaces will flounder until we overthrow these barriers.
Communication is key.
How to move forward?
Mindfulness requires the thoughtful support of management to be usefully integrated into the workplace.
Start by assessing the needs of your workplace. Consider where your organisation is at on the journey to self-management.
Seek expert advice.
Bring together like-minded team members, interested in forming a community of practice. (Ensure people don’t feel pressured to participate—particularly in group environments).
Gently encourage mindful work-practices around the office and as part of other internally run training programs. Review critical thinking, decision-making & evaluation programs. Help team members see how one practice aids their development of other skills.
Incorporate mindfulness exercises into team meetings, as part of office signage or locally housed webpages.
Remember, mindfulness is the first step. We must go on to ask, ‘what’s next? Where do we go from here?’ And set meaningful goals and objectives.
Change needs to be modelled consistently to be accepted in a workplace. Mindfulness too.
As leaders, we can make the choice to allow space for mindfulness. We’ll see the results in performance.
Let’s stop making apologies for training our brains. Create supportive environments where others can choose to do the same!
Thanks for spending time with me today.
Workplace Culture Improvements: A Review of the Literature. Prepared by Ju Li Ng, Anya Johnson, Helena Nguyen, Markus Groth. June 2014. The Australian School of Business UNSW and The University of Sydney Business School.
Gelles, D. Mindful Work: How Medication is Changing Business from the Inside Out, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2016, New York.
Sydney Morning Herald. ‘Workplace resilience: It’s all a great big con’. 2 Oct 2015. www.smh.com.au/comment/buzz-words-and–outside-activities-not–the-solution-to-job-satisfaction-20151001-gjytjx.html