In many offices, clocking in and out on time carries a stigma. If an employee isn’t feeling overwhelmed, there are always more assignments waiting to be crammed into a workweek that already pushes the standard 40 hours. But what if instead of working more — harder, longer, with the hairpulling and nail-biting that often lead to burnout — employees concentrated on simply working smarter?
RISE, a 10-year-old conscious-leadership program created by the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, has been encouraging American workers to move away from what it refers to as the “cult of busy” culture by zeroing in on four key concepts: resilience, integration, self-awareness, and engagement. The program — which has a specific corporate track for on-site training — is centered on how mindfulness can improve morale, focus, and quality of work.
“Mindfulness helps us, basically, pay attention to what we’re doing so that we can do it right the first time and not repeat ourselves,” said Edi Pasalis, director of the Kripalu Institute for Extraordinary Living. “It puts us in a position to maintain very good working relationships so that we don’t have to be constantly managing team discord.” Mindfulness also can help break the spell of monotonous workdays. “Because mindfulness actually helps us identify more options in a situation and enhances creativity,” Pasalis said, “we can make wise choices, rather than just acting out of habit.”
Of course, employees can’t go it alone. To create healthier work habits, they need the support of their employers. Organizations “could allow or even encourage their staff to turn off their email notices for some portion of the time during the day, so they can do focused work,” Pasalis said. “Or allow them to take a moment of transition between meetings — to set up the schedule so that you have time to appropriately turn from one thing to the next.”
In addition to integrating mindfulness into the workplace, employers can help employees battle feelings of burnout by providing them with the tools needed to manage physical stress. Methods as simple as taking deep breaths, Pasalis said, can help pull employees out of what otherwise could turn into fight-or-flight mode, and place them into a more productive state of being.
At the destination level, London & Partners has been recognized by The Sunday Times as being one of the 100 best not-for-profit companies to work for in 2017 because of its wellness initiatives, which address the management of both physical and mental stress. According to Simon Joy, head of human resources, the organization’s efforts to encourage a healthy work/life balance were a natural step toward bettering staff satisfaction rates. “
We had improved and delivered all of the standard elements of our employee offerings as far as we could, and we wanted to continue to engage people and to extend our approach to work/life balance and flexible working,” Joy said. “Our view is, it isn’t about work/life balance so much as how you integrate the work you do into the life you live. For us, doing that meant focusing on wellbeing initiatives as well as the traditional elements of status, promotions, pay, and performance.”
Through London & Partners’ Wellbeing Scheme, employees are given tangible ways to manage stress and push away burnout. The DMO integrated a series of interactive workshops that cover a broad range of topics, such as nutrition, mindfulness, and resilience, as well as on-site perks like Indian Head Massages and yoga classes that make for leisurely workday breaks. “Together,” Joy said, “these are designed to help you optimize your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing.”
Between such initiatives during office hours and improved flexible working options, Joy said, employees now work at a higher, more efficient level. “For many people,” he said, “this has been incredibly liberating and has engaged them more both in their work and at home.”
Efforts such as these that tie together employees’ physical and mental health, as well as the quality of their personal lives, are exactly what Pasalis said make a recipe for success in the office. Valuing what each individual brings to the table and emphasizing the importance of the work — “like helping people plan a meeting that brings people together to learn something,” Pasalis said — rather than just worrying about deadlines won’t just keep stress levels low, but retention levels high. “Focusing on the outcome of the work, not the bottom line of the work,” she said, “helps people avoid burnout.