By Gregory Gjurich, HR Consultant
When I returned from a trip to Japan—that I unenthusiastically agreed to—I was amazed at the level of peace that I felt. I was calm. I was thoughtful. I was … happy. At first I just dismissed this as being refreshed from the vacation, which I am sure did play a part; however, as I thought about what we experienced—and the breakneck speed at which we experienced it—I realized it was so much more than being away from work.
Mindfulness of others. It’s that simple. Mindfulness of others. Everyone in Japan was so respectful of each other. We hear about how the Japanese society is respectful of its elderly population, which they are, but it goes beyond just respecting the elderly. This society respects each other, themselves, their jobs, the environment, its history.
Take Pride in Your Job
If a person in New York is wearing a medical mask, it is more likely to prevent catching germs from everyone else. In Japan, individuals who are ill will wear the mask to prevent spreading their own germs to others. They are mindful of each other. Every employee in every business establishment I encountered exhibited such pride in their job…and extended that pride to clientele and co-workers alike. Why don’t we do that? How many times have you received the deadpan, monotone, “Would you like fries with that” at any of the numerous fast food establishments in our society?
Make Mindfulness the Foundation
The American workforce has become so fast-paced and filled with so many stressors that a work-life balance is extremely difficult to maintain; i.e., we’ve set ourselves up for failure in this department. These stressors all contribute to our work demeanor. How we interact with our co-workers and with our clients and ultimately how productive we are. But for the moment, I want to set aside the amount of work that is being accomplished — or not accomplished — and focus on our mindfulness of the people with whom we work.
There are volumes published on respect in the workplace. We have yearly training on non-harassment and respect in the workplace. I so often am asked to address issues with employees who feel they are not being treated respectfully in the workplace. Why then do we continue to have these issues of employees not feeling valued? It’s because there is no mindfulness of others.
It’s not just being aware that someone is in the room with you. It is an awareness that that individual has a set of values, emotions, ideas that are all valid and certainly worthy of consideration. It’s an awareness that I may have had a bad day and need to couch how I say things so the frustration I am experiencing from earlier in the day doesn’t translate to this new experience with this valued co-worker. It’s an awareness that the person with whom I am speaking may, in fact, be having their own frustrations. If I am calm, aware and respectful of them, I just may be the catalyst to turning their day around…and ultimately their productivity (See?! There IS a business reason for all this!).
It’s contagious, people. Mindfulness of others can be the foundation for a work environment where employees are more concerned with getting the work done than they are with who gets the corner office. People will make up their own stories, and they are usually not very kind.
Cultivating Mindfulness in the Workplace
About a year ago, I saw an article on this very topic. It listed five (5) things we can start doing to cultivate mindfulness in the workplace. The list below can be your starting point for doing your part to improve the culture of your organization.
1. Identify choice points: Choice points are the countless moments during a day when you’re interrupted mid-task, confronted with a new priority, or have a thought that breaks your focus. Rather than automatically falling prey to these distractions, try making each choice point an opportunity to consciously decide what deserves your attention or what best aligns with your primary goals.
2. Take awareness breaks: This is a 45-second break performed once an hour while at work. Think of this break as a reset button for your mind. 45 seconds may not seem like a lot of time, but it’s enough to break the busy action-addiction cycle and keep you focused on your most relevant tasks. If you have difficulty keeping track of awareness breaks, take a look at www.potentialproject.com for a smartphone app that can help.
3. Decrease your multitasking: Allow yourself to focus on what you are doing. Keep as few applications and emails open on your computer as possible. Also, allocate time slots where you switch off all media and focus on important thinking or strategic tasks.
4. Conquer your inbox: Before it conquers you. Switch off all notifications in your email system. Allocate time slots where you deal with emails, and aim to utilize your brains best hours in the best way. Work for 30-60 minutes on important tasks in the morning.
5. Start daily mindfulness training: The hard part about mindfulness is that you actually have to do it to get any benefits. You have to actually practice it. An effective training program requires just ten minutes a day of practice and enhances your ability to detect choice points or have meaningful awareness breaks. To begin daily training, search for business focused programs and apps that help you apply your practice to your professional as well as your personal life.
Give it a try. You don’t need to travel to Japan to find peace and productivity at work. Start by recognizing that everyone around you is seeking the same thing. Discover your mindfulness and find your success…both personally and professionally.