First, Do No Harm - Introducing Mindfulness to your Organisation

First, Do No Harm – Introducing Mindfulness to your Organisation

There has been an explosion of mindfulness in the workplace in recent years. Starting with the cool kids of Silicon Valley including Apple and Google well over a decade ago, now it's not unusual to see employees well beyond the Valley using apps such as Headspace and participating in taster sessions during wellbeing weeks. The most progressive organisations encourage staff to attend mindfulness training programmes and some even have dedicated meditation rooms to support practice. Benefits such as reduced stress, increased resilience, improved focus and attention and enhanced wellbeing are increasingly attractive to leaders and HR professionals attempting to 'shore up' their people's wellbeing and keep them engaged in an increasingly complex and fragile world.

Providing one-off workshops can help raise awareness of what mindfulness is, but if you want to affect positive changes in your employees you will need to invest time in training. Some of the best evidence-based programmes which blends the wisdom of mindfulness practices from the East with modern psychology from the West such as Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) have 3, 6 and 8 weekly training options (low, moderate, and high dose) of varying duration from 60 to 150-minute sessions. There is typically home practice in between sessions to build the 'mindfulness muscle' much like working out at the gym to build body muscle.

However, I speak to clients frequently who say, "I tried meditation/ mindfulness - it's not for me." Typically, the experience was a result of poor training run by someone with good intentions but without any understanding of the 'what and how' of mindfulness training. It's deflating to see one of the most enduring, potentially transformative, and currently relevant wellness modalities developed over thousands of years crushed by one poor experience.
So, if you want your employees to benefit from a mindfulness program where do you start?

Here are 5 questions that may help you separate the wheat from the chaff when assessing potential providers:

5 Questions You Need to Ask Your Mindfulness Provider

1. How has the teacher been trained or certified?

There is a world of difference between a dedicated meditator and teacher. Simply practising mindfulness does not a teacher make. Mindfulness teacher training typically moves a practitioner's teaching skills from unconsciously incompetent (read the script) to consciously competent (you are the script). Other great questions to ask include how many months/years the teacher has been training for and are they certified with a reputable organisation such as BAMBA (UK).

2. How many years of daily personal mindfulness practice does the teacher have?

Some of the most reputable mindfulness training organisations recommend 3 years of personal practice minimum, 5 years ideally. With 5 years of daily practice, I feel I'm still at the early stages of my journey.

3. Will a recognised programme be used and is it backed by evidence?

MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) and MBCT (mindfulness based cognitive therapy) for example have been studied extensively in clinical and non-clinical settings with published research proving effectiveness.

4. What mindfulness practices will be covered?

The practices covered need to be appropriate for the audience. Extended sitting practice for example, is not for everyone or suitable for every work environment. Typically, a range of practices such as mindful eating, mindful movement (like gentle yoga), loving-kindness meditation, gratitude practices and a variety of other meditations are introduced to provide multiple ways to practice mindfulness in everyday life and offer 'something for everyone'.

5. Will the effectiveness of the programme be assessed?

When introducing mindfulness to an organisation I normally recommend conducting a pilot programme and gathering feedback before organisation-wide implementation. Pre and post programme surveys are also helpful to measure effectiveness.
Mindfulness is not a 'magic bullet' that will make your peoples and organisation's problems go away overnight. If the workplace is toxic with people in distress and burning out due to excessive demands, understaffing, poor leadership, discrimination or inequality, mindfulness at best may help people to finally find the courage to speak up or leave. However, where the workplace is simply reflective of the world we now live in which is changing at warp speed - increasingly complex, fragile, demanding, and pressurised, a mindfulness programme might just be one of the greatest gifts a conscious organisation can offer to their people.

Brenda is an executive coach, leadership, and team development facilitator. She is a certified mindfulness teacher in MBCT with the University of Oxford Mindfulness Centre and teaches mindfulness and meditation in a corporate context. Connect to find out more.