A technology company can be a beast to run on a day-to-day basis and Highlands is no exception; our tech company wrestles with its share of hassles and urgencies on a daily basis. Looming deadlines, personnel issues, software glitches, or any other set of troublesome, but inevitable business concerns are here to stay. The question is not how to avoid them—because we can’t—but rather how to address the daily headaches calmly, thoughtfully and with as little unnecessary upheaval as possible.
We have our corporate “coping mechanisms”: the office protocols, hierarchies of people with specific responsibilities, and SWAT-like teams designed to swoop in and fix crises as efficiently as possible. But is there another tool we can use to both improve employee well-being and gain a competitive edge?
Turns out that Google, Intel, General Mills and many others have implemented their own training programs for a field of study once considered incompatible with the no-nonsense climate of business. Google’s “Search Inside Yourself” program, in use since 2007, has presumably reduced stress levels, and helped employees across the organization develop greater levels of empathy and inner calm. As abstract as it may seem on one level, mindfulness has a very real and concrete part to play in the tech world.
Mindfulness Moves out of Medicine… and into the Office Breakroom
Mindfulness as a program got its start some 50 years ago when Professor Jon Kabbat-Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center developed the course as a supplement to traditional medicine. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teaches people how to cope with stress, chronic pain and depression by changing thought patterns and encouraging patients to focus their energy on meditation and openness to the present. Medical practitioners noted that patients practicing some aspect of mindfulness generally had more positive experiences when dealing with serious medical conditions.
Mindfulness principles have become mainstream in recent years as their ability to benefit areas outside of medicine, like the work environment and everyday life, have become more apparent. To better manage the stresses of a typical workday—from interacting with clients to coping with deadlines—many have found mindfulness principles useful and clinical studies have supported these findings as well. Companies have found that mindfulness training helps employees develop a higher level of emotional intelligence, greater creativity and focus, and helps with a company’s productivity as well.
At Highlands we believe that practices that can help employees maintain a balanced emotional state and outlook are beneficial to both the individuals and the company as a whole. Here are some key points about mindfulness to consider and use right away:
Determine What is Important NOW and Focus on That
Eckhart Tolle, a well-respected spiritual leader who has amassed a substantial following writing about the destructive patterns of living in the past or fearing the future, writes in his book, The Power of Now, that the present moment is all that really matters. Everything else that you may be thinking of is a distraction from what you could be doing now. Thoughts that lead you to worry about future scenarios or past mistakes clutter your focus and prevent you from taking action or fully enjoying and maximizing the present moment.
Don’t Dwell on the Past or Fret about the Future
In the context of work, once you have carved out time in your calendar to work on a future project, stop thinking about it. Similarly, don’t dwell on past mistakes. Ruminating on yesterday’s flawed PowerPoint presentation won’t allow you to go back in time and fix it. Instead, make a mental note of how to approach the project differently next time and then move on to the assignment that needs your attention now. The more time we spend dwelling on a past incident, the more negative power it has over our thinking. Random thoughts about the past or future that swirl around in your head add up to mental “clutter” and don’t allow you to move forward.
Listen More and Judge Less
A workplace where people listen to each other is the ideal but is rarely the norm. Adopting a more mindful state of being means listening more and resisting the urge to speak first and judge. Take the time to hear and understand another’s point of view. Consider your own strengths and weaknesses as you relate to your peers. Approach questions that come up at work with careful thought and deliberation. Greater openness and understanding of another’s point of view and greater self-awareness leads to a calmer, more productive work environment.
Tap into Calm Energy to Fuel Work at Highlands
It may just take 5 minutes or less to feel the energy in your hands or feet, become aware of your senses, listen to your breathing, and center on the present moment. You won’t find yoga mats at Highlands, but we do encourage you to try mindfulness techniques to refocus and recover a balanced state of mind.