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Mindfulness in Corporations during the Covid-19 Pandemic

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Key Takeaways

  • Mindfulness classes and programs are now widely utilized in many organizations.
  • Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, most mindfulness classes and programs are now taught virtually in organizations.
  • Zoom has become the go to tool for mindfulness instructors to offer classes and programs to organizations virtually.
  • Organizations are facing new challenges with employees working from home.
  • The need for mindfulness classes and programs has increased since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mindfulness classes and programs are available to employees in many organizations. At the very least, they are offered via Apps that employees can download and listen to. In some corporations, mindfulness classes and programs are available to employees via teachers that visit the organization on a regular basis.
According to Inc.com, many of the largest and best-known corporations love mindfulness. This includes:

  • Google
  • Nike
  • Apple
  • General Mills
  • Goldman Sachs

However, when employees were forced to work from home, due to Covid-19 restrictions, people who have become accustomed to mindfulness classes in their offices are without the support that these classes offered. The benefits that employees experienced though mindfulness classes taught in their offices were not only negated, but many started to encounter new issues while working from their homes.

Organizations specializing in corporate mindfulness classes were forced to create a different way to offer their classes to their staff. Even though some of the organizations offering mindfulness classes already had Apps at their disposal to connect with employees, many corporations still wanted some type of class that made employees feel as if they were still connected to each other.

Corporate mindfulness class specialists have turned to Zoom as the alternative way to offer classes. They found that they could offer "real" classes that felt as live as the classes they taught in person. This has required some experimenting with video and audio to recreate the "live" experience, but some of the Mindfulness organizations are doing this quite effectively.

After experimenting for 2 months, we  found that our audio classes, delivered via Zoom, were received as positively as classes taught in person. We have received compliments from many HR managers and employees about the quality of these presentations. In some instances, people preferred the Zoom classes as we made the audio recordings of the classes available for offline listening. This has allowed employees to listen to our mindfulness classes at their convenience.

Using Zoom to offer mindfulness classes did come with some technological challenges. Utilizing audio in live presentation can be challenging. We have to adjust the audio quality of the background music independently of the audio quality of the spoken voice to achieve the best results.

Zoom has become a key tool to organizations offering well-being classes to corporations. It allows organizations to offer Yoga, Mindfulness, and other well-being classes to corporations. In many instances, the requirement that an employee be available for a class at a set time is no longer an issue. Some organizations are recording their classes and making video and/or audio archives available for employees to access any time they wish.

What does Mindfulness mean and what are some examples of mindfulness practices?

Mindfulness is defined by Mindful.org as the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. In other words, instead of allowing our mind to wonder, we are 100% focused on what we are doing and saying.

Here are some examples of mindfulness practices.

While at work, a supervisor approaches me and says that he would like to discuss something related to a project I am working on. As the supervisor starts to talk, my mind starts to wander off and I think about the dinner date I have later that evening. This is not being mindful.

Instead of allowing my mind to think about the dinner date, I notice that my mind is gravitating away from the person speaking to me. I then make the conscious choice to bring my full focus to what the person is saying. This is being mindful.

Many of the things we do on a daily basis are done almost automatically because we have done them so many times. For example, think about taking a shower. While washing our bodies, our thoughts are focused on everything except actually cleaning our bodies. This is not being mindful.

When we take a shower, we can practice mindfulness by paying 100% attention to washing our bodies. We can fully engage in cleaning all parts of our bodies and the sensations associated with each body part that we touch.

Mindfulness allows the brain to enter a very calm and quiet state. When our brains are accustomed to being in this calm and quiet state on a regular basis, even when we are challenged with thoughts of something that can cause a negative reaction, our brains can weather the storm better. Our brains can look at these challenges as not so overwhelming and challenges that are very manageable.

However, when our brains are not accustomed to these calm and quiet states, any challenges can easily become overwhelming and present difficulties. Mindfulness prepares our minds for times of great stress. By preparing our minds for the inevitability of stressful situations, we are also preparing our bodies to not overreact to stress. A stressed mind has a negative impact on the body. This can be seen in people that become more susceptible to illness.

What are some of the benefits of Mindfulness Programs?

  1. Stress Reduction: Harvard University has shown through studies that meditating on a regular basis has been proven to reduce stress.
  2. Anxiety Elimination: Anxiety in the workplace is one of the greatest hazards. Mindfulness can reduce and eliminate anxiety.
  3. Quieting Our Thoughts: Mindfulness can quiet that constant chatter in the minds that so many people experience.
  4. Remove Mental Blocks: By bringing calm to the mind on a regular basis, the brain develops a stronger ability to see problems and solutions more easily. Mindfulness can help remove the mental obstacles to seeing solutions to complex work-related problems.

How important is mindfulness during the Covid-19 pandemic?

Now, more than ever, mindfulness is essential to the well-being of employees. Many employees are not accustomed to working from home. For many people  working from home for the first time, initially, they love the thought of not having to go into work. After a few weeks, they notice that being "productive" can be extremely challenging. The structure that had previously existed by working physically at a location outside of their home is no longer there. With this structure gone, employees start to experience anxiety, stress, anger, depression, and other negative states of mind.

Employees are now being confronted with new sets of challenges. Being quarantined at home forces people to interact with others for much longer periods than they are accustomed to. This includes being surrounded by one’s children. As much as parents love their children, children get bored easily and can quickly and easily eradicate any sense of patience and tolerance that most parents have.

What are some good  practices to gain the most benefits from Mindfulness?

  1. Practice daily: It is essential to meditate daily.
  2. Set a specific time: Even though it may be challenging to meditate at the same time each day, we should try our best to set a specific time of day to meditate and stick to this.
  3. Meditate first thing in the morning: The most effective time to meditate is first thing in the morning. The reason for this is that your mind is not yet full of thoughts about things you want/need to do later in the day. However, if you cannot meditate first thing in the morning, you can still gain the benefits by meditating at other times of the day.
  4. Don’t be hard on yourself: We all have good days, and all have bad days. If you don’t have a good meditation, don’t be hard on yourself. Simply look forward to the next time you sit.
  5. Consistency: It is essential to be consistent with a mindfulness practice. To be consistent, practice daily and meditate at the same time each day.

What are the most common challenges a person faces in a mindfulness practice?

Possibly the biggest challenge that people face is that after they start meditating daily, something happens one day that prevents the person from meditating. Instead of meditating the following day, they find another reason not to meditate. Possibly they didn't get up early enough and now must rush to get work done. Possibly they feel very tired and simply ‘don’t feel like meditating’. Missing one day of meditation is not a big deal. But if this happens on a regular basis, most people stop meditating completely and lose all the benefits that they acquired.

Another major challenge is the thought that someone only needs to meditate when something bad is going on in their life. So many people turn to mindfulness when they are facing one or more challenges in their lives. As soon as their challenges disappear, they no longer feel that they need mindfulness. This is completely untrue.
Mindfulness is intended to be practiced every day no matter whether we are experiencing difficulties or life is great. It is the changes that mindfulness brings to our minds that helps us during the inevitable difficulties that we all must face.

Is there one reason why all people should meditate during the Covid-19 pandemic?

The greatest challenge that people face during the Covid-19 pandemic is ‘fear'. Fear has taken many shapes and forms during the pandemic. The greatest fear is contracting the Coronavirus and then possibly dying. In the early stages of the pandemic, there was an extremely high mortality rate for people that had contracted the Coronavirus. Even though the mortality rate has decreased, most people are still very scared that they will contract this virus and then die.

The second greatest fear may be financial distress. This comes in the form of losing jobs, losing businesses, not being able to pay our bills, and not being able to provide the essentials that we all need. Even for those that are fortunate to have jobs, many are living in fear that their employer will either reduce their staff or possibly even go out of business.

What steps can a corporation take to start an effective mindfulness program?

There are several organizations offering corporate mindfulness programs. When evaluating which organization is the best fit for your corporation, consider the following:

  1. Determine whether you want/need classes taught physically in your organization or taught virtually. If you require virtual classes (i.e. classes taught online via Zoom or similar), ask the organization whether they teach virtually, how long they have been doing this, and whether they can provide a class to allow your corporation to evaluate their teaching.
  2. Ask the organization that you are interviewing whether they offer mindfulness "programs". If they offer programs, ask for details about the programs.
  3. Ask the corporation about ways to evaluate the effectiveness of their mindfulness programs.

Providing mindfulness classes to employees during the Covid-19 pandemic is not an optional well-being offering. It is an essential tool that must be offered to employees to keep them healthy both mentally and physically. The psychological toll of the pandemic is in the early stages of evaluation. Corporations can help define a new normal for the workplace by ensuring that their employees’ mental and physical health is well-maintained via an ongoing mindfulness program.

About the Author

Dan Globus has been practicing meditation for over four decades and teaching for more than 10 years. He is trained by an ordained Tibetan Buddhist monk in traditional Tibetan, Vipassana and Mindfulness meditation techniques. He teaches meditation to groups and individuals at The Compassion Center, and specializes in corporate mindfulness classes for Meditation House. Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, he has been teaching virtual mindfulness classes to corporations via Zoom.

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