A mindful workplace is your buffer against the kind of employee stress that disrupts productivity, drains happiness and drives high turnover.
With Stress Awareness Month coming up in April, now’s the time to plan workplace activities focused on stress awareness — and to give employees the tools they need to handle stress before it takes over.
The first step toward busting stress is mindfulness.
“This is why April is Stress Awareness Month. The key to minimizing unhelpful stress is to first become aware of it. We cannot change what we cannot see,” author Melissa Heisler writes in her HuffPo article, “Make the Most of Stress Awareness Month.”
Ultimately, stress itself is not the issue. Stress is an inevitable part of life! It’s how we handle stressors that makes the difference between healthy and dysfunctional.
Workplace leaders set the tone for how to handle workplace stress.
In an un-mindful workplace where leaders feed stress, employees are more likely to react to stress with anger, ingratitude, burnout, overwork or disengagement. Actuarial research shows that self-medicating with unhealthy habits like smoking and binge drinking are also common outcomes of unmanaged workplace stress. The results can be disastrous for your company culture and business, as disengaged employees “check out” from doing their best work.
In today’s workplace, “it’s unlikely the pace or intensity of work will change much anytime soon,” according to the Harvard Business Review.
But “there’s a growing body of research that suggests certain types of development activities can effectively build the capacity for resilience,” Wisdom Labs co-founder Rich Fernandez writes for HBR. Investing in employee personal growth and development “is the first step in unleashing creativity, enabling potential and supporting sustainable productivity.”
Start the process in April with a week (or more!) devoted to building a more mindful workplace. Read on for Stress Awareness Month activity ideas.
7 Days of Workplace Mindfulness
According to the American Institute of Stress, up to 90 percent of all visits to primary care physicians are for stress-related disorders, ranging from stomach trouble to heart disease, and job-related stress costs American businesses about $150 billion annually.
These are daunting statistics, but they can be turned around. At Aetna Insurance, for example, company mindfulness programs for 12,000 employees showed an average of 62 minutes per week of enhanced productivity, saving the company $3,000 per employee annually. Other studies show a substantial reduction in turnover, fewer sick days taken, boosted profits and overall better performance and sustainable engagement from workplace mindfulness and stress-reduction campaigns.
Take these simple, cost-effective steps to develop daily habits in your workplace that will feed a culture of mindfulness and gratitude — not stress!
Day 1: Educate and Organize
Download AmeriHealth’s free Stress Awareness Employer Toolkit to learn more about workplace stress and get practical tools for organizing Stress Awareness Month activities for employees. The AmeriHealth toolkit provides activity ideas, educational payroll stuffers, assessment quizzes, promotional materials and more. Federal Occupational Health also has a free stress-awareness toolkit with posters, email templates and other useful, ready-to-go graphics.
Day 2: Take the “24-Hour Mini Mindful Moment Challenge”
Stress can be triggered and flare in a matter of seconds. Line Goguen-Hughes at Mindful.org recommends countering these stress flare-ups with mindfulness “mini-moments”:
“What if during multiple moments of the day you had a mini-moment practice where you brought your mind to the present moment and checked in with yourself. What would change? … In the middle of an important business meeting, a mini-moment is prompted and you notice your shoulder’s tightening and your mind worrying that you’re going to have to speak soon, and you choose to take a few breaths and roll your shoulders.”
Goguen-Hughes suggests we challenge ourselves: take a “mini-moment” of mindfulness once an hour during the day, to stay mindful and ward off stress with calming techniques.
Day 3: Embrace All Forms of Mindfulness
You don’t have to train your employees to be yogis on a mountaintop to build a mindful workplace! How each of us de-stresses or practices mindfulness doesn’t need to fit into pre-conceived notions about the “right” way to do it.
Explore options that interest and excite the people in your workplace. It may be meditation, but it could also be something else.
Melissa Heisler at HuffPo suggests exploring “the things you lose track of time doing” — petting a dog, coloring a picture, walking, playing basketball. One study even showed that knitting was more effective than meditating or yoga at making participants happier. It all depends on what works best for your unique company culture and employees.
Day 4: Practice “Monotasking”
“Multitasking is a myth,” according to HBR. Leave the multitasking to computers — humans are simply not effective at it. In fact, one neuroscientist that HBR quotes says multitasking typically “doubles the amount of time it takes to do a task, and it usually at least doubles the number of mistakes.”
Encourage employees to “monotask.” According to HBR, managers can do this by “helping team members with clear, one-at-a-time task prioritization for deliverables, defining milestones that don’t overlap, and generally avoiding the trap of mistaking the urgent for the important.”
Day 5: Do Wellbeing Activities as a Team
We already know stress can be contagious, but it turns out wellbeing is contagious, too. According to Gallup, “there is plenty of evidence that wellbeing is shared within existing formal and informal networks and that it spreads based on social ties.”
So today, organize a wellbeing activity — whether it’s health checkups, a healthy-cooking demonstration or an exercise class — that your team can do together.
Day 6: Spread Gratitude
Gratitude comes naturally in a mindful workplace. It’s easier to notice our appreciation for others when we’re not continuously caught up in our own stress response. So spread some stress-busting gratitude today! Say “Thank You” more, spread random acts of kindness, write Thank You notes together or pause work for a fun celebration of your team’s successes.
Day 7: Reward Wellbeing and Mindfulness
Your employees’ good work depends on their good health and ability to handle stress, so don’t forget to reward their wellbeing and mindfulness achievements! Whether it’s a Quit Smoking initiative or group meditation or exercise participation, they deserve (and need) your appreciation to keep them motivated.
Share small, health-minded gifts like Grocery Gift Certificates or Fruits & Vegetables Gift Certificates to thank them and encourage their efforts. Letting your staff know company leadership cares about their wellbeing is an important step toward inspiring and engaging them — and building a more mindful workplace and stress-free culture!
Make Every Day Stress-Free in Your Workplace
Download your FREE 2017 Day-to-Day Employee Recognition Calendar, your guide to building a successful workplace culture of positivity and gratitude.
“In life, one has a choice to take one of two paths: to wait for some special day — or to celebrate each special day.” – Rasheed Ogunlaru, coach and author
The gThankYou 2017 Day-to-Day Employee Celebration Calendar gives you the tools and inspiration to build a culture of appreciation every day of the year. Download yours today, absolutely free.
Here’s to a happier workplace in 2017!
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