At Wisdom Labs, we believe that mindfulness, compassion, and resilience are essential elements of a successful and thriving workplace that are not only great for the wellbeing of your employees, but also for the bottom line of your business.
Studies have shown that mindfulness—both as a trait and as a practice—has the ability to reduce stress, sharpen focus, increase productivity, boost employee engagement, and develop self-confidence in leaders.
Regular mindfulness practice can even mitigate what are often called “lifestyle” ailments, such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Countless studies have shown that mindfulness also helps to quell anxiety and depression, and even lessen our pain response.
This is why executives at Google, Salesforce, Aetna, Target, Intel, General Mills, Apple, Nike and more have sought to reap the benefits for both the wellness of their people and for the organization as a whole by offering mindfulness retreats, training, and full-scale programs. All of this begs the question—why haven’t more companies built mindfulness or meditation programs?
Recently, we spoke with Scott Shute, Head of Mindfulness and Compassion at LinkedIn, about his own journey toward cultivating a culture of corporate mindfulness and compassion. Scott is a leader that is sharing his experience bringing mindfulness into the workplace and encouraging others to follow by example.
In our conversation, Scott shared some of his tips for building and cultivating mindfulness practices in your own workplace.
1. Share the Science
Many people perceive mindfulness or meditation as “touchy-feely,” or perhaps a little bit too “new age” for the modern workplace. Despite this perception, peer-reviewed research by neuroscientists over the past 25 years shows that the benefits of a regular mindfulness practice. There’s nothing “new age” about it!
While we don’t recommend that you send a bibliography of PubMed articles to your colleagues, sharing a few short statistics from trusted sources can help convince skeptics.
2. Find Your People
Practicing with colleagues or friends can help you stay accountable. Schedule a meeting once a week to talk about your progress, or set up a special Slack channel for your co-workers. If you don’t feel comfortable leading a session yourself, ask someone else.
Scott Shute says that it’s important to find your people, no matter how small the group. Even before the COVID pandemic, studies have shown that many people at work are lonely and don’t have a close friend at work. What better way to cultivate connection and community than through a mindfulness “study group”?
Once you have a group of participants, you can work from there to grow your numbers. Scott reminds us that we need to find our crew first: the colleagues and friends. After that, then find our sponsors and get them engaged, such as an executive or a representative from HR, to help you get funding and additional support for your efforts.
3. Create a Challenge
While it might seem counter to the philosophy of mindfulness, we’ve noticed that when people engage in mindfulness “challenges,” they’re more likely to stick with it. This means setting a goal, such as meditating for 5 minutes a day for an entire month. Join with your friends to stay accountable, or challenge each other to achieve the most consecutive days of practice.
Scott suggests offering small prizes to encourage wider participation and generate excitement among colleagues at work. He’s used this approach to boost buy-in and inspire people at LinkedIn to create habits of mindfulness that have continued well after the challenge ended.
4. Track Your Progress
Experts say it takes 3 weeks of consistent repetition to form a habit, so whether you’re learning alone or with a group, it’s important to track your progress. One way to do this is with one of the many mindfulness or meditation apps available today.
LinkedIn has used our own Wise@Work app for their company-wide challenge, but other meditation apps such as Insight Timer, Calm, and Headspace also have great quantitative approaches to keeping you connected with your practice.
Change starts with you, but it doesn’t have to end there. Share your progress with friends and colleagues who might want to develop their own meditation habit.
5. Keep it Secular
Mindfulness is for anyone that’s willing to learn, and the best workplace mindfulness programs are inclusive ones. While many people still associate mindfulness and meditation with Buddhism, your workplace mindfulness practice doesn’t have to be spiritual or religious at all.
If you’re hearing that your colleagues or employees are reluctant to try a mindfulness practice because it feels “religious,” you might consider naming your mindfulness or meditation sessions after the actions involved or the many benefits. Here are some alternatives:
- Guided Breathing
- Quiet Contemplation
- Daily Destress
- Relax and Reset
Jon Kabat-Zinn, leading expert in the field and creator of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction reminds us that the essence of mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”
In short, everyone’s mindfulness practice will be different, so give them space to explore what that means for them in the most open and welcoming way you can.
6. Start With Yourself
Mindfulness at your workplace can start with just one person—you! Through your continued actions and example, others will follow. Scott says that eventually, his colleagues wanted to take ownership of weekly practices, dive deeper, create new circles, and lead their own mindfulness communities.
We hope that you’ll consider being the spark that ignites a lasting and enthusiastic mindfulness program in your workplace, sharing the benefits of this practice with everyone around you.
You can start your journey by checking out our Mindfulness Resource Kit, which includes links to free courses, actionable advice, and additional support for cultivating resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even if you’re still working remotely, you can share these helpful resources with your colleagues.
Wisdom Labs is solving for stress, burnout, and loneliness in the workplace using the science of mindfulness, resilience, and compassion. If you are an HR, Wellness, Culture, Talent or Learning & Development professional looking to bring a culture of mindfulness to your organization we invite you to get in touch with us today!