My inbox has been filling with requests from organizations all seeking the same thing -- to help their employees deal with the stress and anxiety that the pandemic has caused.
This is what my clients are saying, very consistently:
"Our staff have been working so hard, they're stressed out and full of anxiety. They are burning out. We'd like to help our staff learn about mindfulness to help them cope."
The main observation I've had in the past two years is that the audiences I'm speaking to (generally employees looking to reduce their stress and anxiety) are more aware of mindfulness, at least at a basic level, many have tried it and many would call themselves a practitioner.
My audiences are more knowledgeable about mindfulness and meditation, and the questions are more challenging (and insightful, I might add).
I've been told that I'm pretty good at gathering data, and realized that I've been tracking most of my speaking engagements every year since 2013.
Here is my data, as I always ask "Who already knows something about mindfulness or already practices?" My estimate is that the chart below represents about 4,000+ people from 2013 to April 2021.
What's important to note here is that this data is a mix of two types of audiences:
Audiences that have opted-in. These are people who saw an invitation to learn about mindfulness and chose to be there. So, the percentage of those who already practice is likely to be higher.
Audiences that I was 'thrust upon'. Tongue-in-cheek, when I say 'thrust upon', I mean audiences that didn't choose to listen to me. Often is the case that I'm asked to speak at an employee or leadership 'development day' or 'retreat' and the meeting planner hires me to speak to their group. And I have to say, in the early days I used to get a lot of skeptical looks and yawns, but not these days. People are definitely more open, curious and interested. People are hungry to learn these valuable skills.
Generally, my talks are about a 50/50 mix of the above two audience types.
What insightful employers are doing
In addition to employers arranging a one-time talk, there is some increase in the number of employers interested in having some type of ongoing mindfulness practice for staff. They know that mindfulness is a practice, not just an intellectual exercise or a interesting one-time presentation to listen to.
People need to practice, 'do the work' and incorporate mindfulness into their every day life in order to reap the benefits that are well-researched and appear in so many articles today.
What might be surprising and interesting is to know that many 'ongoing mindfulness programs' where employees gather to practice regularly together, are borne and operated in a grassroots fashion (not as a top-down, strategic initiative - there so much to say here but in short, when staff are leading a session there generally is trust and community built rather than it being a human resources initiative). Often, eager employees obtain funding from their employer to get trained and certified to learn the practical and best practices approach to starting a program at work and how to become a skilled mindfulness facilitator. Employers can support eager employees by funding their training.
~Wendy Quan, Founder, The Calm Monkey