As we approach a whole year of living with the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home, navigating continuous uncertainty and the general struggles it brings, we have seen a trend emerge across our client base. Stress levels, both work and non-work related, have increased while decompressing seems harder as current circumstances can prevent us from our known coping mechanisms.
Self-care has become an increasing priority and it needs to be more intentional than before. You can’t pour from an empty cup, right?
Individual employee cases with significant levels of stress over an extended period of time, particularly if they have already started to feel the negative consequences of it, clearly require tailored one-to-one support which the team at Purpose HR can help with. But companies should focus on prevention – learning new strategies and prioritising the wellbeing of their employees.
A tool we are increasingly using successfully across our client base is mindfulness. We really like mindful.org’s simple, straight forward definition:
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
Practicing mindfulness can improve mental wellbeing by making us more aware of the present moment and helping us deal with negative emotions and issues productively.
An article by Forbes Magazine outlines the scientifically proven benefits of mindfulness which include helping to reduce distractions and decreasing overall anxiety levels. Whilst it is a basic ability that all of us have, sometimes we have to learn how to access it.
That’s great, but what now?
Companies can help their team members focus on their mental wellbeing by making it a priority and talking about it. There are a number of things employers can do to set the tone and add real value but, importantly for start-ups, that won’t break the bank.
One of them is scheduling mindfulness sessions during the working day. Communicating it as paid time sends a clear signal: spending time to focus on your wellbeing is just as important as your project meeting, client call or responding to emails.
We have worked with experienced mindfulness practitioners and coaches across our clients and have started with introductory sessions addressing key questions like ‘what is mindfulness?’, ‘how can it help us in our day-to-day?’, followed by a short practice.
Mindfulness and behavioural change expert, Andrew Johnson, offers a range of self-care recordings, guided meditations, apps, online courses and workshops. He describes the benefits of practicing mindfulness to achieve positive outcomes in both our personal and work lives:
“With so much change and uncertainty these days, it’s no wonder so many people are feeling unsettled and scattered. Meditation and Mindfulness give space and time to regain a sense of perspective, letting go of past and future thoughts and allows us to remain more present in whatever we are involved in. This reduces worrying, discomfort and anxiety and boosts creativity, intuition and happiness.”Andrew Johnson
Get your team involved
For mindfulness to really add value, it’s important that your team have time to regularly practice. For them to want to make mindfulness part of their routine, it’s important that the sessions address their needs and interests. It may not be for everyone, but by making sure we tailor the sessions as much as possible and listening to feedback, we have found that even team members who may have been initially sceptical wanted to take part and learn more.
After holding an introduction session or two, ask your team for their input! How did they find the sessions? Was the timing and content right for them? What questions do they have? What would they like to work on with the guide?
We have done this with short surveys (where the answer to ‘would you like to continue attending mindfulness sessions?’ got a 100% yes response rate!) or as part of a follow up discussion with the team.
Listen to and use feedback to shape additional sessions and any further support you may be looking to provide.
Additional benefits of facilitating these sessions
Above and beyond the specific benefits of mindfulness and taking care of our people, we have noticed positive effects around employee engagement and levels of appreciation.
Doing these sessions as a team can heighten the sense of belonging and the feeling of ‘we’re in this together’. We have found #mindfulness Slack channels being created, where team members share resources with their colleagues, or really interesting discussions happening where the team get to learn from each other’s experience.
Can we not just use apps?
Of course you can! Mindfulness and meditation apps like Calm and Headspace are really good and cater to a wide variety of tastes and preferences. Starting off with an experienced coach and a group of peers can help address initial questions, get the process started quicker and further personalise the experience. By all means, do bring in apps to support this even more if you’d like.
Get in touch to learn more about the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace and to find out how Purpose HR can support your team’s wellbeing with tailored sessions and resources.