March 6, 2017

Stumped on How to Bring Mindfulness to Your Business? Learn from Top Brands

BY Caitlin Delohery IN Mindfulness 0 Comment

mindfulness in business

If you’re like most people — and most people on your team — you pick up your smartphone before you even get out of bed in the morning. You’re checking your email, your social networks, and your Slack channels before you even brush your teeth. You already have a barrage of incoming information, pulling your attention from one topic to the next, before you have your first cup of coffee.

Startups, especially, are hotbeds for constant work: you and your team are driven to get more done, faster. You likely work around the clock so your company will survive and thrive, so that you and your team will come out on top.

But, increasingly, experts are saying that all work and no play makes you more than just dull. Overworking can decrease productivity, weaken focus and attention to goals, and crush innovation. In short, you’ll end up getting less done by trying to do too much, and your life (and your company) may suffer for it.

Enter mindfulness. It’s grown in popularity in the U.S. in the past few years (as I’m sure you’ve heard) for a reason. Mindfulness is an in-the-moment answer to internal and external pressure to work constantly. It’s also a break from work that can take as little as five minutes. Stumped as to how to get started? Take a page from the books of the big brands. Here’s how Google, Aetna, and other top companies get their mindfulness on.

Google wants its employees to search inside themselves.

There’s a reason that Google is consistently named one of the best places to work in the country. Some people will point to Google’s high pay, pool tables, and sleep pods, or the benefit of changing the way the world works.

But, the foundation for what sets Google apart may just be a single innovative program: Search Inside Yourself. SIY is a mindfulness and emotional intelligence training program that teaches its employees how to hack their minds. Combining ancient meditation techniques with cutting-edge neuroscience research, the program focuses on self-awareness, compassion, empathy, positive thinking, resilience, motivation, and leadership.

Participants in the program report many benefits:

  • Improved leadership effectiveness
  • Better well-being
  • Increased resilience in the face of stress
  • Strengthened mental focus
  • Reduced frequency of sick days

SIY has expanded beyond the corridors of Google to become a full-fledged institute, bringing mindfulness training to companies across the globe.

Tip: Your startup may not yet be ready to take the plunge and bring Search Inside Yourself to your offices for a 2-day seminar. But you can start more modestly, right now.

Buy your team copies of Search Inside Yourself or Joy on Demand, written by Google’s former Jolly Good Fellow in residence and creator of Search Inside Yourself, Chade-Meng Tan. This can kick off a discussion of how to bring more mindfulness techniques into your strategic thinking and your everyday work.

General Mills wants Betty Crocker to be aware of the present moment.

You probably know General Mills best for the cereal you feed your toddler or your favorite flavor of Haagen Daz. But the food manufacturer brings more than just tasty treats to your kitchen. Like Google, they are leaders in bringing mindfulness into businesses.

Janice Marturano, the Founder of the Institute of Mindful Leadership, developed the very first mindful leadership curricula while she was still serving as the General Mills’ VP. General Mills was the first of many Fortune 500 companies she brought her intensive training to, and the company maintained their dedication to mindful leadership after Marturano left to run the Institute full time.

“It’s about training our minds to be more focused, to see with clarity, to have spaciousness for creativity, and to feel connected,” says Marturano. “That compassion to ourselves, to everyone around us – our colleagues, customers – that’s what the training of mindfulness is really about.”

While many companies offer mindfulness training to all employees, General Mills continues to devote special focus to strengthening present-living techniques in their leaders. Throughout a typical week, team leaders and senior employees may engage in meditation and yoga together. Mindfulness spaces are available to gather and sit in silent reflection together.

And those who participate see benefits not just to their well-being but to the employees they lead as well. After one seven-week mindfulness program at General Mills, 89% of participating senior leaders said they were better listeners. What’s more, 80% said they had experienced a positive change in their ability to make better decisions.

Tip: If a widespread mindfulness program seems too daunting for your company, start with smaller training and practice sessions for you and other leaders in your startup.

This can be as simple as joining together to do a few meditations, such as the free guided meditations available from the Institute of Mindful Leadership. You can join a yoga class together or sit in on a free mindful leadership seminar at your local meditation center. By beginning with the leaders of your startup, you can create a culture of mindfulness before introducing any practice within your organization as a whole.

Aetna knows an Om a day keeps the doctor away.

Aetna, the managed healthcare company, is committed to keeping their employees healthy. Their wellness initiative is guided by the unconventional leadership and hard-earned wisdom of Aetna’s CEO, Mark Bertolini.

After a near-death skiing accident left him with a long-term disability and chronic pain, Bertolini turned to yoga and meditation. He reflects: “I still have my pain, but as we say in the meditative arena, in the mindfulness arena: ‘I have pain, I’m aware of my pain, I am not my pain.’ I had to learn how to be more ‘Zen’ in the way I approached my daily life, and meditation was a way to learn how to do that.”

Bertolini brought this sense of Zen into his Fortune 100 company. He offers free meditation and yoga classes to his 50,000 employees (and about a third participate). Aetna runs a mindfulness tumblr with regular tips on being more present in everyday moments, such as reminders to enjoy the walk between meetings or to place mindfulness Post-Its around workspaces.

Aetna employees who participate in the mindfulness activities report significant gains:

Tip: Browse Aetna’s mindfulness tumblr for concrete, actionable ways to encourage more daily mindfulness in and out of the workplace.

Aetna also introduced mindfulness and yoga practices to their customers. Can you move your dedication to mindfulness outside your immediate team? Can you share what you’re learning with your customers? It won’t just make your whole business, inside and out, fitter, happier, and more productive — it might just be good for your bottom line, too.

What are your thoughts on mindfulness in business? How is your startup getting going with a new mindfulness program? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Caitlin got her roots in inbound marketing before it got its name. As a teenager in the 90s, she promoted her independently published magazines by writing about the importance of indie publishing all over AOL. Now, Caitlin is passionate about moving people and society forward. She follows thought leaders in the National Speakers Association, the staffing industry, and all human rights movements. She loves learning and helping people learn.

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