With new information around the benefit of mindfulness, exercise, fresh air and sleep being released almost daily, it comes of no surprise that employers are getting in on the action to combat over stressed employees. In this modern world where we are being constantly bombarded by emails, calls, meetings and more, the days of extended work hours and the pressure of work life balance are at an all-time high. Yet productivity ultimately suffers. In a study undertaken by The University of London*, it was found that the ‘always on’ effect decreases capability.
Of those studied, there was a reduction of 5 points in women’s mental capacity, and a huge 15 in men. The study found that when the brain is ‘always on’ it creates a sense of crisis and our brain will take short cuts when tired and stressed.
A new trend pushing through to combat these modern-day issues however, are employer initiates, aimed to alleviate many of the stresses that face employees daily, in turn creating workplaces that are brain-friendly, allowing teams to be creative and high performing, whilst simultaneously being health and wellbeing focused.
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People and culture expert, Blythe Rowe, is an expert on such benefits and here she shares her top tips for workplaces wanting to instil stress management and mindfulness tools into the workplace:
These programs are a great method for getting people to absorb the present moment and their physical surroundings. They are aimed at providing stress-relief strategies for employees in this demanding, always-on environment we operate in. Through specific exercises, they aim to increase employee awareness and understanding of their brain and body functioning and are very helpful to build resilience in employees. These programs are carefully designed to increase concentration, enable staff to manage stress better and increase productivity, as well as work satisfaction, all whilst concentrating on the health and wellbeing of employees as a priority.
To support learnings in mindfulness programs, workplaces should also have an element of brain-friendly practices in place. Practices such as: meditation rooms, silent spaces, walking meetings, colouring books, yoga sessions, providing brain food, on-site massages, sleeping pods and games rooms.
Focus time (F-time)
An allocated time where employees turn off distractions. Allocating a timeframe where people can switch onto focussing on a project or task, whilst switching off all distractions. Office
design can even assist with this by having “technology free zones” or “F-Time” designated spaces.
Team Meditation Rituals
Before a meeting, introduce a few minutes of guided meditation as a team. Devices like MUSE can help track the effectiveness of the meditation. Even closing your eyes for a few minutes and breathe deeply can increase alpha waves and calm the mind, which is critical for effective brain functioning.
Introduce walking meetings
Stimulating serotonin – a necessary neurochemical for creativity and is the chemical of calmness.
Encourage exercise at lunch with a friend
Google offices don’t offer ping pong tables, sleeping pods and other cool spaces just to be a “cool employer”. This is very strategic. It increases connection between staff, time out to move your body (aerobic activity boosts creative potential) and sleep is one of the most important activities to refresh our cognitive and creative abilities.
Mindfulness activities should also never be used in isolation as the “silver bullet” to long term performance and wellbeing. In an environment of restructures, leaner organisations, intense workloads, increasing pressure and demands, information overload, organisations need to be constantly critiquing their workplace practices, structures and leadership frameworks to ensure the mindfulness practices can be optimised and the wellbeing and health of team is maintained. Otherwise all the goodness these practices provide could go to waste.
* (The University of London study was reported by Dr Glenn Wilson, a psychologist at Kings College, London and the study was sponsored by Hewlett Packard).