We are facing a productivity crisis. Global economic indicators suggest that people in westernized countries are working more hours and producing less. This should be of concern to every human resource professional.
Although there are many reasons for this alarming trend, one of the biggest factors is that people are distracted and unfocussed at work, an issue we explore in our book One Second Ahead (Palgrave, 2015). Too many employees spend too much time doing lots of things, but not necessarily activities that generate results.
At the root of this busyness are minds that are under too much pressure, have too much information and too many distractions. If you aren’t sure if this applies to you, try this short exercise.
Set an alarm for one minute and close your eyes. Pick a thought and try to think about only that one thought and nothing else until the time is up.
After one minute, take a moment to reflect. Was it easy to stay focused on one thing? Did you find that lots of other thoughts kept intruding? What else did you notice about your mind? Is it calm and clear? Is it agitated and cluttered?
Based on our experience, many people find that in taking a moment to observe their mind, they see the source of their busyness. They notice just how many thoughts fill up their mind and how difficult it is to maintain focus and clarity. Many of us have gotten so used to walking around with mind’s that are “full” that we think it’s normal.
But there is another option.
Recent scientific research has demonstrated that ancient mindfulness techniques skillfully taught can help us be more focused and clear-headed. Studies indicate that by practicing mindfulness for as little as 10 minutes a day people can enhance performance, improve creativity, sleep better, reduce stress, and achieve other benefits.
But for all the hype around mindfulness, it is still not mainstream in today’s fast-paced, complex, always-on, demanding workplaces. Our solution to this challenge is to make mindfulness not just something nice that people can do on their own to enhance health and well-being-which is good and great–but to bring it into every day work life. If we want to change the way we operate at work it is a lot easier when we get everyone on board and when being mindful becomes part of the culture.
Rather than focus just on individuals, our focus is also on the organization. We believe that if organizations are more focused, clear and calm, it is good for individuals as well as for the bottom line.
If it sounds utopian, it is not. In our work with leading organizations like Accenture, Microsoft and IKEA, to name a few, they are seeing the benefits of corporate mindfulness from both an individual and organizational perspective. These companies are introducing mindfulness not as just something nice for their employees, but rather as a strategic initiative to enhance performance and well-being.
Corporate mindfulness doesn’t have to be something else employees need to do. It can be integrated into day-to-day activities at work and at home, enriching individuals and organizations on both fronts.
Rasmus Hougaard, @rasmustpp on Twitter, is the founder and managing director of The Potential Project International, a leading global provider of corporate-based mindfulness solutions operating in 20 countries.