Mindfulness in the workplace – the best present you can give yourself.

In 2016/17 alone, 12.5 million work days were lost due to stress, depression and anxiety. This is clearly a significant problem which employers are thankfully nowadays doing more to tackle. However, there is still a stigma attached to these type of health issues which companies are starting to challenge.  The recent Lloyds #GetTheInsideOut campaign is a good example of this.

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Given the impact these issues have on businesses it is hardly surprising that mindfulness is becoming increasingly common in the workplace.  Companies like Google and Transport for London, for example, have mindfulness training in place and often sing its virtues.  Google even has a Head of Mindfulness on its payroll!

What is mindfulness?

The scientific definition is “the self-regulation of attention with an attitude of curiosity, openness and acceptance” but there are various descriptions applied to the practice. My first thoughts when I explored it were that it all sounded a bit airy fairy but given that the likes of Google and TfL were giving it a go I figured there must be some benefits.  One article that got me thinking was a piece written in The Guardian, which read:

“When trying to decide whether you are mindful, consider the following points. In the last week have you found yourself:

·         Unable to remember what others have said during conversations?

·         With no recollection of your daily commute?

·         Eating at your desk without tasting your food?

·         Paying more attention to your iPhone than to your nearest and dearest?

·         Dwelling on past events or dreading what the future holds?

·         Are you skim reading this article?

If you answered yes, the chances are you are zoning out on a regular basis, spending at least some time on autopilot.”

Looking back to before I started practicing mindfulness techniques, I could rarely remember my commute to work (but to be fair no-one wants to remember anything about the Northern line), but I definitely spent too much time staring mindlessly at my phone and frequently found myself mindlessly shovelling down a meal at my desk. So, I thought I’d give mindfulness a go and see if it could benefit me.

After digging around looking for a way to use it I came across the following 7 things that I could easily build into my day:

1.       Take a breath – take time during your day to not check emails, not think about yesterday’s meeting which maybe didn’t go as planned, or the meeting you’ve got on Friday that you need to prep for. Just sit back and enjoy the moment!

2.       Re-engage with those around you and your environment – take the time to say hello to a colleague you haven’t spoken to in a while, stare out of the window for a minute and watch the world go by.

3.       Simplify and focus – simplify your task list and concentrate on one thing at a time; you’re more likely to perform better than juggling three or four things at once. Multitasking isn’t always the best way to get the job done.

4.       Don’t worry about what cannot be undone – don’t dwell or stress about past mistakes, everyone makes them. Use that time to learn and improve so mistakes aren’t repeated.

5.       Take a walk – as pressure mounts and work piles up its easy to skip lunch but doing that will make you less effective in the long run. Make a point of taking a walk even if it’s just five minutes round the block.

6.       Eat – staying nourished and hydrated will keep you sharp. It’s all too easy to wolf down a sandwich at your desk. But don’t! Take the time to enjoy your lunch and take stock.

7.       Accept achievements – regardless of the size or impact of your achievements take time to reflect on them and accept them before moving onto the next task

Now I won’t lie, my days aren’t always mindful. I do still arrive at the office door from time to time not remembering a thing about my journey, or I may spend my lunch shovelling down a ploughman’s sandwich whilst checking my email. However, I now have the awareness to catch myself and subsequently take the time to go for a walk or chat to a colleague.  I now also realise the value in taking stock, both in the short term and long term.

At Trinity McQueen we are generally a mindful bunch.  We’re encouraged to take proper lunch breaks, leave our desks, and catch up with colleagues. We are also lucky enough to have an office by the canal which makes for excellent walks to clear your head. Working in an environment where this is the norm and actively encouraged certainly makes it easier to be mindful, it may even make me a more effective researcher!

 

John Spencer - Research Manager

Annabel Gerrard