Mindfulness and Work Performance

The hot topic in peak performance is now Mindfulness. Mindfulness is getting a lot of interest from businesses such as Google, Westpac, Sydney University, Suncorp, Australian Ballet, Nine MSN, CBA, RSPCA and NSW Health – and the international media including The Economist, Forbes, The New York Times, The Guardian, the BBC, Business Insider etc.

With figures showing that 70 percent of employees are disengaged; and only 8 percent believing that they experience overall wellbeing because of their work (Source: Gallup 2013), it’s no wonder that the smartest companies are now looking beyond presently accepted policies in order to achieve the sorts of results required to bring companies through stressful financial times, layoffs, and burnout.

It has been decades coming! The technologies documented as long ago as the 1960’s such as stress reduction, meditation/(mindfulness), health care, sleep training, napping and good nutrition are only just being adopted by leading organizations.

Listen to what Chade-Meng Tan, the author of Search Inside Yourself has to say about Emotional Intelligence, Mindfulness and Neuroscience.

The Amygdala – that part of the brain associated with emotions, and governs in times of perceived threat. At the point of perceived threat the amygdala literally takes over the brain, shutting down the executive part of the brain – the pre-frontal cortex. In that state when we say “I lost my mind” we actually aren’t joking. Neurobiologically we are not thinking. And it is no joke when stress and anxiety in the workplace not only exhaust our adrenals, but cause us to behave inappropriately because of the perceived need to survive, rather than just make appropriate decisions.

Insula, insulatory cortexes, insulae. Very interesting information that indicates that a more active left insula is associated with happiness, and the left insula is the one that is connected to the amydala.

There’s a comment that I have to make here – because I’m continually speaking to organizations that, because of a number of reasons, such as legal exposure – formulate policy based only on what happens at work – totally ignoring what their employees are doing outside working hours.

In fact some organizations knowingly ignore the inappropriate behaviour of employees even during work hours. e.g. financial sector employees using stimulants such as cocaine to ‘cope’ with stressful working hours late at night.

The separation of the work-person-employee from the outside-work-individual continues to be made in spite of the fact that workers bring to the organization their private emotional life and stresses, their financial problems, health problems, lack of sleep, relationship issues and personality disorders.

I’m continually asked “what has sleep got to do with fatigue?”, which is laughable until you hear it many many times – including from fatigue training organizations. The fact that an employee could arrive at work, 9 am on Monday morning already fatigued is not being recognized at all. It’s both ignorant and unconscionable.

What employees do after work has always affected the way they work. There’s no need for neuroscience here.

Mindfulness, mental and physical health and lifestyle affect the organizations bottom line in (at least) the following ways:
1. Accuracy, alertness, efficiency and productivity;
2. Relationships, management success, cooperative and happy workplaces;
3. A calm and cooperative workplace where new ideas and innovation are more likely to arise, and be respected;
4. Greater brain power with improved executive function of the brain, task switching, memory, physical coordination, etc;
5. Reduced days off and staff turnover; and
6. Reduced accidents and errors, insurance and legal costs.

It’s all pretty obvious really.

The organization behaves in exactly the same way as the individuals that make it up. Just on a larger scale.