In recent years I’ve been so excited to see a growing awareness of the importance of mental health and wellness in the workplace; not just amongst employees facing the daily challenges of rapidly evolving global work environments, but amongst business leaders and C-suite executives as well.
In this post, we’ll take a look at the growth of mental wellness training, which is increasingly common amongst small businesses and large corporations alike. We’ll take a look at what these wellness programs look like and explore how they can help your leaders and employees gain more clarity, make more effective decisions, and boost the productivity of high-performing teams.
In the past, some businesses have - rightly or wrongly - been seen by many as caring only about their bottom line, and not focusing enough on the well-being of employees. Well, all that’s changing – in fact, large corporations like Google, Unilever, and Microsoft have begun to embrace mental health awareness training as a powerful way to ease workplace stress, keep teams pulling together, and boost creativity and productivity in fast-paced environments where human capital is a crucial competitive advantage.
Whilst the solution to handling demanding workplaces might appear to be to double down, ramp up your energy levels, and drink a ton of coffee/energy drink (whatever’s your poison), the reality of sustainable workplace performance is very different.
The surprising truth about how to perform best in demanding workplaces is actually to take a breath, take a step back, observe your feelings and responses, and reflect on how to move forwards – rather than act on knee-jerk reactions to the demands of the modern workplace.
Poor mental health is estimated to cost the global economy $2.5 trillion every year, projected to reach a staggering $6 trillion by 2030. Mindfulness practitioners and mental health advocates have known about [the importance of mental and emotional well-being <link to emotional well-being article>] for years, and for a long time leaders didn’t fully embrace the crucial role mental health awareness plays in maintaining a committed and productive workforce.
But all that is changing as meditation becomes much more mainstream and the meditation industry grows from strength to strength – mindfulness app Headspace is valued at $3 billion, and the star-studded list of CEOs who meditate features luminaries like Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, the late Apple pioneer Steve Jobs, and Thrive Global CEO, Arianna Huffington.
Across America and around the world leaders are learning that poor mental health is not just an unavoidable side effect of modern society to be ignored or even swept under the rug; it’s an entirely avoidable outcome – if the right awareness and attitudes are in place, and leaders implement proactive strategies to improve mental health and well-being in the workplace, for both employers and employees.
Mindfulness and emotional intelligence training are not just for high-performing C-Suite execs, saluting the sun barefoot in expensive beachside retreats. It’s applicable in every work environment.
Leaders who benefit from mental health awareness training are then able to distribute this amongst their teams. This means that the whole organization benefits when leaders and executives undergo mental health awareness training.
Many companies are developing their own mental well-being programs, like Google’s Search Inside Yourself program (more on this below), Microsoft’s commitment to “empowering our employees”, and Accenture’s “Thriving Mind” program of self-directed mental well-being and resilience training.
Mental health and wellness awareness training courses come in many shapes and sizes, but key components may include:
Good corporate mental health training courses will be flexible to fit the needs of your business and can be delivered as online talks and workshops, as well as in-person workshops and bespoke courses.
Greater awareness of mental health has gone hand in hand with a growing understanding of the role of mindfulness in developing more harmonious interpersonal relationships at work, as well as in increasing performance and productivity.
It’s been amazing to see the transformation of public representations of mindfulness. One figure at the heart of this transformation is award-winning software engineer Chade-Meng Tan (known to the world as Meng), who pioneered the Search Inside Yourself (SIY) program whilst working at Google. SIY is a mindfulness-based leadership program that helps develop emotional intelligence and create healthier workplaces.
Search Inside Yourself focuses on attention training, self-awareness, and emotional regulation. “Attention training” is another way of explaining the concept of mindfulness, which is all about becoming aware of our thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations in the present moment – and acknowledging them without passing judgment.
This is typically done by focusing our attention on the simple process of breathing. In his 2012 talk at Google, Meng explains that it only takes 10 seconds to become aware of one’s breathing – but the trick is to maintain this concentration for as long as desirable, which could be several minutes or several hours.
The general benefits of greater mindfulness and emotional intelligence clearly have a positive impact on how we live our day-to-day lives, but less understood is the role they can play in effective corporate leadership. In fact, Search Inside Yourself is all about developing leadership, which it sees as sitting on a foundation of mindfulness, self-awareness, self-management, motivation, and empathy.
The course kicks off with live online or in-person sessions organized in 6 modules, lasting around 12-16 hours in total. The in-person format is delivered over 2 days, whereas the online format is delivered in 3 to 6 sessions, depending on the time flexibility and needs of the participants. This live experience is followed by 28 days of weekly exercises delivered by email and a final capstone webinar in which participants share their achievements and are given resources to set themselves on the road to lifelong personal and professional growth.
As a qualified facilitator of the Search Inside Yourself program, I have seen amazing results achieved in an incredibly short time. I’ve seen awesome improvements in collaboration and communication within teams, and the unlocking of creativity and innovation at work. Individuals benefit from increased focus and attention, as well as enhanced stress management and resilience. It’s amazing what people can achieve when they develop greater self-awareness and inner calm… even in the most demanding situations.
To be a mindful leader is to give clear, responsive attention to each task – to be present and engaged rather than pulled in all directions. With this kind of engaged focus, leaders are able to respond rather than react, to inspire rather than insist, and to gain the trust and respect of their teams.
I hope this article has helped you get a better understanding of the role corporate mental health and well-being training can play in supercharging your organization. As well as delivering the Search Inside Yourself program I offer 60-minute workshops to help your workplace get started on your mindfulness journey. I have also designed a comprehensive mindfulness-based well-being at work program which draws on the latest thinking in neuroscience to help grow emotional intelligence and create calm and creative team dynamics that are good for people – and good for profit. Contact me to find out more about how I can help you transform your team whilst banishing burnout.