Can we strike gold in business if we are mindful like Tom?
A worldwide trend towards mindfulness has been gathering pace for a number of years – even in the workplace.
So the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has drawn to a close and, while some of the most memorable TV moments for us Brits may be the inspirational medal wins, a picture captured by the cameras has also sparked our interest – that of Tom Daley knitting.
The British diver, who won his first Olympic gold with Matty Lee in the synchronised 10m platform event, was filmed knitting in the stands while waiting to compete. He has since described knitting as ” his secret weapon” because it helps him shift his focus during the time between dives, which can be anything from 10 to 30 minutes
“It’s made a massive difference,” said Daley. “There’s a long wait between the synchro and the individual and there’s a lot of time to think. My time to think has been replaced with knitting and it’s been such a great and welcome distraction for me to be mindful, but also resting. I’m someone that’s really bad at resting. I sit there. I fidget. I bite my nails.”
While this picture of an athlete actively practising mindfulness is a first for our screens, it shouldn’t take us too much by surprise, as a worldwide trend towards mindfulness has been gathering pace now for a number of years – even in the workplace.
So, what exactly is mindfulness? According to experts at Mindful: “Mindfulness is 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.”
It’s easy to see how this can bring tangible benefits to a workplace setting not least by helping to reduce stress and anxiety, increasing our resilience, improving relationships with others, and assisting us to focus on the task in hand and become more productive as opposed to giving in to the myriad of distractions that can so often plague us.
It is for these reasons that the likes of Google, Spotify, Goldman Sachs and many others have been adopting mindfulness as a fundamental part of their mental health and well-being programmes in recent years. And while critics may see the trend as a passing whim, the reality is that using mindfulness in business dates much further back – and began to surface in the 1970s.
Nowadays, the attraction towards a more zen workplace has resulted in new initiatives for particularly fast-paced working environments, such as the financial sector, with specialist programmes, such as the Mindful on Wall Street initiative, which sees hundreds of bankers joining the group’s weekly meditations via conference call, growing in popularity.
It’s also becoming more widespread here in the UK, with The British Mindfulness Academy listing courses for professionals and the workplace based on research that shows mindfulness can assist employees to experience greater fulfilment by helping them manage stress and build better working relationships.
It’s certainly an interesting consideration for company leaders who are keen to improve organisational communication and create deeper levels of focus among their teams, while at the same time increasing job satisfaction and enhancing mental and emotional well-being at work.
It should come as no surprise, therefore, to learn that NHS staff, who are among those frontline workers who have borne the brunt of the pandemic, are being offered free access to the Headspace app until the end of the year. According to a recent survey by the British Medical Association, 44% of doctors say they suffer from depression, anxiety, stress, burnout or other mental health conditions relating to or made worse by their work. The app is a way to help them be kind to their mind.
So whether it’s a daily dose of Deepak – one of the world’s leading meditation gurus – before getting to your desk in the morning or the development of mindfulness as one of your business pillars, there is a compelling argument to not leave the practice at the office door but to embrace it in the workplace.
This article was written by our chief executive, Angharad Neagle, and featured in the Western Mail on 23 August 2021