7 ways to establish a culture of mindfulness in the workplace

It’s true, meditation involves the momentary calming of the mind and body. However, the effects of mindfulness on workplace productivity are felt long after the calm moment has passed. In fact, research has shown that the more dynamic the workplace, the more effective mindfulness is in improving performance.

This means that for laid back workplaces mindfulness provides a little help, but as a workplace gets busier mindfulness becomes increasingly effective. That’s right – the busier and more chaotic the workplace the more mindfulness can help. This is why in today’s crazy busy work environments leaders need to establish a culture of mindfulness.

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The benefits extend beyond productivity, affecting levels of employee satisfaction and happiness – an integral part of talent retention. Given that turnover can cost companies 16-20% of an employee’s annual wage, strategies that can improve retention cannot be ignored. If increasing levels of productivity isn’t enough to convince business leaders – saving money should.

Far from being an idle pursuit, mindfulness can provide tangible results for businesses. Here are 7 strategies for establishing a culture of mindfulness in the workplace.

Lead by example

There’s a fascinating story of an ancient Chinese general who led by example to the fullest extent. In his army, the general had very stringent rules that were adhered to without exception – any infraction meant public flogging. After the general broke one of his own rules in front of his men, he had himself flogged to everyone’s astonishment. After that, no one was lax with the rules.

No matter the culture initiative, organizational leaders need to be visible and active proponents of said initiative. One of the central reasons behind the failure of culture initiatives is the inconsistency of leadership. When leaders behave as though they are over and above their organization, they soon discover that they are incapable of affecting change.

Designate time

Often, when the workdays are busy and deadlines need to be met, it can be easy to neglect mindful practices. This is why establishing a designated time for taking a step back and engaging in mindful activities is essential for establishing a mindful culture.

Teams should designate slots of time in their calendars to mindfulness to ensure that other priorities don’t interfere. As productivity and performance can be improved with mindfulness, it’s better if the time is set before work typically becomes hectic and busy.

Facilitate group activities

While mindfulness is generally a deeply individual activity, in which one takes a reflective look inward, organizations can cultivate a culture of mindfulness through group activities. This introduces mindfulness, as a concept, to those who may not be familiar with it, in an environment of inclusivity and community.

One way to get a team familiarized with mindful practices is through guided meditation. Guided meditation sessions help familiarize teams with meditation while also developing team bonds around their shared experience.

Offer recognition

For mindfulness practices, incentives neither need to be nor even should be monetary or material. Instead, offering those who most diligently engage in mindfulness some form of public recognition for their efforts is recommended. Recognition then reinforces the best existing practitioners and encourages others to follow suit.

Find culture captains

Leaders must lead by example, but, to establish an enduring mindful movement within an organization, leadership must identify those within the organization that are most enthusiastic about the initiative and leverage their enthusiasm. Leadership should seek to create more leaders within the company and, particularly as it relates to mindfulness, these culture captains can arise from anywhere in the organization.

Following the recognition of the most mindful team members, leverage their enthusiasm, and have them encourage their coworkers to engage in mindful practices. Have these mindful culture leaders explain to their coworkers the benefits that mindful activities have offered them and how it could help them too. This is how leadership cultivates a bottom-up movement in tandem with top-down direction.

Communicate the benefits

A lot of people are reticent to begin a mindfulness regimen because it seems like a waste of time. They wonder, “how will sitting in silence for a few minutes help me be more productive?”

Communicate the clear benefits of mindfulness practices. For every minute that someone practices in meditation, the more present, engaged, and focus they will be throughout the day. Far from cutting into their day mindfulness helps people more fully realize the days potential. Poll those actively engaged in mindfulness practices and ask how it benefits them.

Plan for hurdles

About 70% of culture initiatives fail to implement lasting change. What separates the successful 30% from the unsuccessful 70% is planning for challenges and creating a preemptive plan of action.

As with any culture initiative, establishing a mindful culture meets challenges. At first, people will be enthusiastic and motivated to engage in the new practices, but after a few weeks, there is usually a steep decline in participation. This is when leadership must ramp up its effort to show its dedication to the continued transformation of the organizational culture. Do this by planning group mindfulness sessions every other week or so to rejuvenate your team’s motivation. During this session, remind your team of the benefits that a mindful workplace provides.

Hank Ostholthoff is a best-selling author and the CEO of Mabbly, a Chicago-based digital marketing consultancy featured on the INC 500 list of fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. Hank is dedicated to helping his clients achieve solid growth, and has helped many of them become venture-backed and/or Fortune 500 companies.

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