Why we need Mindfulness in the Workplace

You’ve just been given a new deadline, or you are busily trying to get your head around constantly evolving technology, consumer demands or more data than you can shake a stick at… It’s more important now than ever to actively slow down in order to speed up.

Whether imposed by self or organisationally, the ‘do more, push more, be more’ mentality has become the norm and many marketers, quite frankly, are struggling to keep up.

Have you ever felt like you’ve just woken up and before you know it you’re on your way home from work, left wondering where the day just went? You’re not alone. In fact, research shows that 47% of people spend their waking hours thinking about something else other than what they’re actually doing. With multi-tasking no longer being a gift, more like a given, it’s no wonder we constantly feel like we’re doing more than ever, yet getting nowhere.

Most of us will acknowledge that drive is part of our DNA. It’s what gets us up in the morning – we thrive off solving the unsolvable. But with daily deadlines (if not multiple per day), and challenge after challenge to be solved, even the most motivated and well-intentioned of employees are finding they are getting burned out, struggling to think creatively, or are at a loss to find innovative ways of doing things.

Something has to give eventually, and sadly for many marketers, mental and physical health are the first to be sacrificed. Rather than becoming more efficient, effective, or productive, the figures tell stories of more sick days, heart disease and depression.

Burnout and stress have become the causes of worldwide epidemics, but why does it specifically hit marketers so hard?

Marketing — the game has changed

The game has changed, and with it so has the marketer’s job description. So much so that you could almost be excused for calling us glorified, albeit extremely strategic Project Managers or Problem Solvers. The rules have gone out the window, and with them so has our time. What we once called ourselves subject-matter experts in, those areas too have changed. Specialists, strategists, creatives, call us what you want, we’re all having to learn a new currency which seems more complicated than ever. Then when we nail it, the next brief comes along and we have to learn it all over again.

It seemed like not so long ago that offline was the ‘new’ channel marketers had to consider. And then, in a blink of an eye, it was all about ‘omni-channel’. These days, however, ‘channel’ is a dirty word and the focus is on the customer – meeting them at the right time, wherever they are in the million places they can now be found. Easy, right?

Another factor to consider is ‘email addiction’; The seduction of quickly accomplishing smaller tasks, and the release of dopamine that comes with it is enough to attract anyone. Except that it compromises concentration. We find ourselves latching onto the things we feel we can control, and then beat ourselves up for our lack of time to accomplish the rest, in that half hour we have to get work done between meetings.

Devices are now seen as an extension of ourselves, and if they’re not on us we have wearables to remind us that we’ve left our phones down for two seconds. This technology is doing us no favours in fueling the rise of this-always on mentality. It’s becoming a tougher job to remind ourselves that switching off from work is actually essential for our physical and psychological health as well as supporting engaged and productive work.

Unfortunately, for most of us the skills needed to navigate this new marketing landscape and manage emotional well-being weren’t included in our school/university curriculum.

The good news is that there is a way out. It’s simple in its application, constantly accessible and all completely free.

It’s mindfulness.

Where Mindfulness comes in

Call it what you want, mindfulness is not a new deal. Those Buddhist monks knew what was up way back when, and were well ahead of their time.

Firstly, mindfulness is not just about meditation. Far from it. Mindfulness simply breaks down to paying attention, to the present moment, on purpose, without judgement. Weaving mindful awareness into our everyday means to notice what is happening within us and around us. It is simple and ordinary. We observe our most immediate experience such as our breathing, thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and our environment. We notice, accept, then move on to the next moment.

Practice comes in two varieties: formal and informal. Formal is what most people generally associate with mindfulness, setting aside time for breath awareness meditation, and body scanning. When we practice mindfulness in a more informal way however, we are noticing our experience from moment to moment and bringing our attention to one thing as many times as we can throughout the day via menial tasks such as walking, eating or even listening.

Rather than slipping up on the distractions of emails, phone calls, social media etc., this simple practice can help us stay on track with our own individual and organisational goals. It has been proven to ease stress, release positive emotions, improve resilience, focus and concentration, and promote empathy and compassion in the workplace.

Getting Started

First things first. Make a conscious effort to start your day off right. A number of articles have been in the news lately demonstrating the benefits of morning rituals. Stress, believe it or not, can jump in just moments after waking.

Merely thinking of the day ahead can trigger your fight or flight response, releasing significant levels of cortisol. Why waste your most productive and creative time of the day on that? Simply allowing yourself some “me time”, be it reading, exercising, or simply breathing can do you the world of good and set the tone for your day.

Once you’ve cultivated this mindset, the challenge is to keep it going. To help, here are ten tips to keep you mindful throughout the day:

  1. Give formal practice a go.
    There are so many apps out there like Headspace, or Insight Timer that simply get you to focus on your breath. They say a short ten minutes a day can help form a habit, why not trial during your commute to work?

  2. Avoid getting caught in your emails first thing when you arrive in the office.
    Take some time to review your to-do list and plan out your day.

  3. Most of us are most productive in the morning.
    Try to schedule meetings later in the day, keeping that time to tackle your most brain-intensive tasks.

  4. Practice mindful eating.
    Away from your desk & devices where possible, taking some time to enjoy a hard-earned break, returning to your desk revitalised.

  5. Use mundane daily tasks as a chance to check in with yourself.
    Queues, traffic, washing your hands, opening doors, waiting in meeting rooms are all great opportunities to bring you back to the now.

  6. Become a “single tasker.”
    Switch off as many distractions as you can including email notifications etc. where possible.

  7. Set aside thirty seconds to stretch.
    Every hour, stop and stretch, focusing on how your body feels.

  8. Nurture your body and mind.
    Exercise when you can. Exercise mindfully (not responding to emails whilst on the treadmill!) This can be as simple as taking a walk around the block to check back in with yourself. Feel the air, feel your feet on the ground.

  9. Allow yourself time to completely switch off from work.
    When your work is done, allow yourself some “me time” or family time each day.

  10. Get to bed on time.
    We function better when we’ve had enough sleep. Maybe even try setting an alarm for bedtime, this can help us to commit to that recommended 7-8 hours.

Just like becoming fitter, becoming more mindful involves training. Dedicating a small amount of time each day is a small price to pay for the chance to become more innovative and creative, and more able to solve strategic problems.

Aisling Quigley, Account Director
By Aisling Quigley

Originally Posted October 30, 2017