Mindfulness at Work
By Wenny Lin
I work for a pharmaceutical company that is dedicated to improving people’s health through innovative medicines and health technologies. However, the company realizes that we will only succeed in that mission if we commit to the wellbeing of our own community. My employer, one of the Fortune Best Companies, has promoted meditation and mindfulness as part of its goal to support the wellbeing of employees.
A holistic approach to wellbeing at work
Starting in 2014, the company adopted a holistic approach to wellbeing that leveraged research from Gallup. The research suggested that five essential elements were crucial for wellbeing: career, social, financial, community, and physical/mental. Problems with any one of these elements could negatively impact a person’s daily life. Managers and leaders who nurture a culture to integrate these five elements reap dividends through high performing teams.
At my workplace, I have access to a variety of solutions across these five elements – from career development programs to an onsite fitness center, as well as several other onsite services like daycare, haircuts, car wash, and other outsourcing options. I realize that these amenities may be more common in the technology-centered San Francisco Bay Area/Silicon Valley, where the main headquarters of the company is located, than elsewhere.
Mindfulness as an employee resource
One of the important wellbeing initiatives promoted by my employer has been mindfulness. Mindfulness is described as a type of awareness characterized by being fully present in the moment, aware of but not distracted by one’s thoughts, emotions, and the environment. Practicing mindfulness can help manage stress and anxiety. Mindfulness training can improve attention, which is so important when we spend a lot of our workday in meetings or working on important documents or tasks.
Practicing mindfulness is a skill that can be developed using meditative techniques, including breathing and concentration exercises. Thus, my workplace has dedicated space for silent meditation, called quiet rooms, which can be reserved for individuals and groups. While mindfulness can be practiced at any time and during any activity, group mindfulness sessions are regularly scheduled and shared on our work calendars.
In addition to providing meditation space and time for meditation, my employer also brings in relevant speakers and coaches on the topic of mindfulness. Plus, we have access to the Headspace mobile app, which provides meditation exercises that can be done anytime and (almost) anywhere. I have found the app particularly useful now given that I am currently working remotely fulltime and cannot take advantage of the onsite amenities.
How mindfulness works for me
I practice mindfulness these days with a quick check-in with myself a few minutes before each meeting. How am I feeling mentally (excited, bored, stressed, etc.)? How do I feel physically (energized, tired, sore from my last workout, etc.)? Can I take care of any of those issues before the meeting starts? Or I might stop everything I am doing when I am having a particularly overwhelming and stressful day and do some deep breathing. In the middle of meetings, I have to keep coming back to the conversation at hand to keep my focus.
Personally, I go through cycles of being really interested in practicing mindfulness and then falling away from it. It’s also really easy during teleconference calls with large groups of people to let my mind wander or to give in to the constant distractions of emails, text messages, and social media. This is probably my biggest challenge with mindfulness given my remote location and given my need to feel connected to coworkers and my professional network.
For many of us, work is an integral part of our lives. Thus, it’s critical that companies take the opportunity and responsibility to engage on the important topic of wellbeing. I’m really lucky to have an employer that puts resources into promoting employee mindfulness.
Wenny Lin, PhD, MPH is the co-founder of Women in Pharma Careers, a blog that engages professionals in the pharmaceutical/biotech industry on career development and life resources. She is a cancer epidemiologist and works remotely from her home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Disclaimer: This post reflects Wenny’s personal opinions and not those of her employer.
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