Creating and developing mindfulness at work has always been challenging. Getting individuals from so many different backgrounds and cultures to collaborate and communicate is no easy task. That challenge has gone up a few notches because we can no longer sit face to face and understand each other and try to work out our differences. Opportunities to chat or go for a walk during breaks and eat lunch together are no longer an option and this can lead to greater distance between colleagues which has the potential to diminish trust and cooperation.
The power of empathy
One critical way to create mindfulness at work, especially during times of social distancing, is to practice empathy. Empathy allows us to try, in some capacity, to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and attempt to comprehend what they are going through. I am of the belief that one human being can’t put themselves in another person’s shoes because there is no way of experiencing everything that person has experienced in their life. The decisions they are making now and the behavior they are demonstrating are a cumulative result of all past situations and exchanges they have undergone. Even though it may seem like an impossible task, you need to at least try and understand what our colleagues are going through.
Someone might be experiencing major issues or challenges with their relatives’ health. Some may be undergoing financial hardships while others may be experiencing challenges in their personal relationships. There are so many things that are adding stress to our lives and we need to take a moment to be more understanding, compassionate, and empathic. This is a powerful way to build trust and create mindfulness at work.
Empathy is even more important for those aspiring to be mindful in their approach to leadership. One way this could be practiced to is reach out to those who work under you and have a non-work related conversation to see how they’re coping with COVID-19 and potential Zoom fatigue. Let your employees know that you don’t only care about their productivity but also their well-being. Being a mindful leader simply means being more human and treating everyone in the way you would like to be treated. Research shows that employees who are appreciated, valued, and cared for are more productive and loyal.
Employees are tired of a fear-based leadership model. It doesn’t inspire creativity, loyalty and retention. People are craving human-centered cultures that put employees first and foster mindfulness at work. It’s crucial for those in leadership roles to understand that they are planting the seed and creating their company’s culture – there is a very good chance that the same culture will be passed down to future hires. The key question then becomes, what kind of a culture am I creating?
Appreciation breeds trust and loyalty
How often do you, in a meaningful way, appreciate the contributions of your leaders, direct reports, and co-workers? How specific are you in your appreciation to each individual? Do you quickly shout out a broad phrase like “Great job!” to your entire team and go back to our normal routine? There are more impactful ways to spread appreciation across the workplace. Avoid the cookie-cutter responses and send personalized and meaningful recognition to each employee. By sending genuine words of appreciation on a frequent basis, you’ll notice a huge difference in the way you connect and engage with one another compared to if you were to send a generic message just once a year.
There is nothing more deflating and demotivating than giving your heart and soul to a project and not receiving adequate acknowledgment for the sacrifices made. One can be sure that the individual will definitely not be inspired to provide the same level of commitment when the next project arrives. As we face the barriers of remote work and risk losing a sense of connection and belonging, it’s important to double down on acts of kindness and appreciation to ensure every employee feels seen and valued.
The role of communication in building a mindful culture
An equally important component of creating mindfulness at work is to be compassionate and mindful when communicating with others, whether it’s through a text, email message, in a virtual meeting or in person. Below are four tips to keep in mind when communicating with your team mates:
- Is the message truthful? Do you have your facts in order?
- Will the message be beneficial for the person or the situation? If not, how can you effectively communicate to ensure a positive outcome?
- Can your message be organized to not disturb the mind and emotions of the recipient? Since negative messages can distract an individual’s train of thought and cause a loss of productivity, can it be reworded to improve its tone?
- Can your messaging be structured so that it is pleasing to the recipient?
Meeting these criteria requires you to be very thoughtful before having that face-to-face encounter or pressing “send” because once you send a message, it can’t be taken back; undoing the damage to the relationship may not be possible or could take a very long time. Let’s remember, it’s crucial to be patient when it comes to communication. Relationships, like trees, can take a long time to grow but can be cut down quickly.
When and how can you practice mindfulness at work?
Mindfulness practices can help you develop compassion and improve your communication at work. It allows you to take a moment of pause and clarity and gives you the opportunity to step into the shoes of your colleagues and be more empathic.
Here are some moments when mindfulness at work can be practiced to improve your performance.
- At the immediate start of your workday
- Before going into a meeting
- After a meeting (especially if it was heated)
- During breaks
- At the conclusion of the workday (so you can be present for the needs of your family)
Below are some ideal mindfulness practices that can be performed during your workday.
- Take five to 10 deep breaths and stay focused on your breathing exercises
- Feel grateful for something that is happening in your life and for something that has happened during the day so far
- Appreciate a colleague that you get along with and one that you don’t
- Mentally wish your colleagues success in their endeavors and pursuits
These simple mindfulness practices allow us to clear the traffic jam and declutter the mind, which will help you reduce stress from our body and mind. Thus, enabling you to gain clarity and perspective over a potentially challenging situation. Practicing mindfulness doesn’t have to be a lengthy and time-consuming affair – all you need is a few minutes each day to give your mind the much-needed break it deserves so you can feel empowered to bring your best and most mindful self to work.
Learn more about mindfulness at work by attending my free virtual speaking session “Mindful Leadership: Walking the Talk and Transforming Workplace Culture” at ACE 2020 on October 22 at 2:00 PM ET. Save your seat by registering for ACE 2020. I look forward to (virtually) meeting you!