As the lines between work and life begin to blur, forward-thinking employers have caught on to the mindfulness and wellness trend. This article explains.
By introducing a few cost-effective perks into the workplace to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of your team, the needs of the modern generation workforce can be met.
What is mindfulness?
With its recent explosion into the mainstream, you’d be forgiven for believing mindfulness to be a modern term. On the contrary – mindfulness is a way of life with roots deep in Hinduism and Buddhism, which has been practised for thousands of years.
Don’t let the religious foundations discourage you – you don’t have to be a Hindu or a Buddhist or indeed have any spiritual inclination at all to reap the benefits of mindfulness.
At its most basic, mindfulness is about living in the moment – that is, being present and engaged with the task at hand, whether that’s exercising, eating, playing an instrument, playing with the kids, or working. It’s about being, rather than doing.
Mindfulness goes hand in hand with wellness, and employers who strive to get the best from their staff are getting on board with bringing mindfulness into the workplace to create a happier, healthier and more productive workforce.
When you consider a high percentage of sick days are taken off each year because of work-related stress, it makes commercial sense to look after the mental health of staff in a bid to reduce absenteeism and therefore loss of productivity and, along with that, loss of profit.
What is wellness?
Wellness is more than ‘being well’ and free from illness, disease and ailments. Wellness is about making active choices in your day-to-day activities to achieve a healthy and fulfilled lifestyle. Or, as The National Wellness Institute defines it: “A conscious self-directed and evolving process of achieving full potential.”
To put it simply: wellness is about practising healthy habits on a daily basis.
Why businesses should encourage mindfulness and wellness in the workplace
As workers crave a better work/life balance, responsible employers keen to look after their team’s wellbeing are adapting their perks and benefits programs to cater more for mental health and self-care.
Bringing mindfulness and wellness into the workplace can be an easy and cost effective way to help employees not only get healthier and happier while they’re at work, but a mindfulness and wellness program also has the advantages of:
- increased productivity;
- increased performance;
- better decision-making;
- better focus;
- enhanced creativity;
- improved confidence; and
- reduced stress and anxiety.
If you want to attract and retain the top talent, creating a company culture of mindfulness and wellness is crucial, especially in the current COVID-19 climate.
Before we have a look at some of the benefits you can offer your staff, let’s begin with what your staff can do for themselves. They might have heard the word ‘mindfulness’ being bandied around, but do they really know what it means or, more importantly, how to put it into practice?
Mindfulness training will show them how they can incorporate small changes into the working day to bring them greater satisfaction and fulfilment.
Mindfulness training can either be given by a mindfulness consultant who comes into the office a few times a year to discuss mindfulness practice and techniques, or via a weekly email reminder of daily habits to be incorporated into your team’s day-to-day activities to keep them on the right track, such as:
Switch those mobiles off
It’s tempting to quickly check your phone in between tasks, but not getting distracted from the task at hand by giving in to the pull of the screen improves attention to detail, clarity of thought, focus, concentration and alertness;
Instead of grabbing a sandwich and eating in front of a screen, encourage your staff to leave their desks and take a walk outside in the fresh air, or put their headphones on to listen to some relaxing music or do a guided meditation on an app (which you will have provided them with if you take up the suggestion below); and
Leave work at work
Encourage your staff to fully unwind at the weekend and leave the office behind by not checking emails or any other work-related correspondence.
It may sound odd to encourage your staff to sleep on the job but studies have shown just a 20 minute power nap increases mental stamina, productivity and alertness.
Margaret Thatcher may have famously thrived on four hours of sleep a night, but these days, world-leading companies such as Google, NASA, and Huffington Post have installed sleep pods to allow their staff to recharge and refresh their mental batteries throughout the day.
If your budget doesn’t stretch to a dedicated nap room, isolate a cubicle in a quiet space, or carve out some time slots in a meeting room where team members can take some time out.
Meditation app subscription
Meditation trains the brain to focus on the moment, resisting the urge to wander and clearing it of all thoughts in order to reduce stress and increase focus. Meditation can also have positive effects on:
- weight loss;
- compassion; and
A meditation app contains guided courses from beginner level to the more advanced with a variety of timed meditations to suit everyone. Treat your staff to a meditation app they can access on their phone anytime they need to calm their thoughts for a few minutes.
The word ‘yoga’ can conjure up images of sitting cross-legged, in spiritual, zen-like serenity. But yoga has infiltrated the mainstream and many companies are offering it as part of their wellness package to allow their staff to reap the physical benefits of yoga such as:
- balance; and
- mobility; and mental benefits including:
- mental strength;
- focus; and
Bring a yoga instructor into the workplace once a week or pay for classes at a local gym or yoga studio.
Flexible working hours and time off
Gone are the days of a rigid 9-5 working day with 28 days’ holiday allowance offered to all staff. With more businesses becoming results-driven, companies are allowing their staff to take as much time off as they need, as long as they’re meeting their goals and targets.
A flexible attitude towards time off means your team can enjoy opportunities outside work that happen during the more traditional ‘working hours’. It also allows them to take a day off if they’re feeling overwhelmed or mentally fatigued. You end up with a fresher, more productive and devoted workforce.
Another option to consider is to allow your team to have flexible working hours. Allowing them to choose what time to come in and go home will allow them to work around their other commitments, reducing stress and anxiety about how to fit in their responsibilities outside the workplace.
On-site personal care services
With people’s busy lives, they don’t always get the chance for a spot of self-indulgence in what little spare time they have. In their list of priorities, personal care services might be way down their list after looking after their family or food shopping, so providing on-site facilities will be highly appreciated.
Microsoft’s staff are in the enviable position of being able to take advantage of an on-site spa, sports field, bank, dry cleaners, salon, shops and restaurants. Your budget might not stretch to that of Mr Gates’ but some of the services you can put on offer to pamper your staff are:
- manicures; and
Volunteering is a rewarding and fulfilling experience but having a full-time job doesn’t allow much time for this.
There are a myriad of volunteering opportunities out there, whether it’s one-on-one helping out the elderly with their shopping, or a company-wide clearing up the neighbourhood campaign everyone takes part in.
Paying your staff to take time off helping out the community will do wonders for their confidence, self-esteem and wellbeing.
As you can see, mindfulness and wellness has an essential part to play in today’s workforce as the lines between work and home become blurred.
As employers become more compassionate, realising the mental health of their employees is of the utmost importance, having a mindfulness and wellness program in place will not only keep your staff happy and healthy but will attract top talent and retain the staff you already have.
About the Author
Gary Bury is co-founder and CEO of Timetastic, an independent and profitable web app for managing time off work, used by thousands of companies around the world.