Here's a good thing resulting from COVID-19 - there has been an evident shift in organizations clamoring for mindfulness to help their staff's mental health.
In the past 7 years that I've been training mindfulness facilitators to introduce ongoing mindfulness practices in their workplaces, one of the most popular topics has been this:
'How do I get my employer to approve my starting regular mindfulness sessions for the staff?'
The reality, up until March 2020 (the start of people needing to work from home), was that every facilitator's situation was unique. The need for a formal business case to start mindfulness varied greatly based on the organization's culture and values, and the level of true commitment to employee's well-being. Sometimes, the facilitator just needed to let leadership know they were going to start gathering people together to practice mindfulness, and sometimes facilitators did indeed need to create a business case.
Whatever the scenario was, gaining 'approval' from leadership to start sessions always seems to be a hot topic, causing some level of anxiety or procrastination, especially if the facilitator wasn't used to navigating the office culture of how to suggest a new activity like this.
And then March 2020 hit us all ... suddenly everyone's lives are disrupted by COVID-19.
Organizations are urgently seeking ways to help staff deal with their disrupted lives.
In a recent Zoom session I had with a group of facilitators-in-training, I asked them what they are experiencing - look at these results:
Acceptance for workplace mindfulness is higher - the barrier is now lower than ever before. 70% said there is more acceptance for mindfulness at work.
After hearing a lot of facilitator's experiences, I sum up their comments here:
"I was having conversations with leadership about starting up mindfulness at work, but when COVID-19 hit, they reached out to me and encouraged me to get started ASAP!"
Here's a direct quote from a new facilitator, and not unlike many others:
"With the heightened stress and anxiety resulting from COVID-19, I expedited my proposal to begin offering regular mindfulness session in my organization. It was approved and I begin offering twice weekly sessions in mid-March 2020. I was quickly asked to increase the frequency to twice daily! The average participation is 15 people."
Facilitators scurried to get comfortable running virtual sessions, as there are certainly extra skills needed to facilitate mindfulness in an engaging, trauma-sensitive manner that is different than leading in-person groups.
I'm encouraging all facilitators to skillfully run surveys to gather quality data that shows how mindfulness has helped participants in their personal and work lives.
One tip is to go beyond the typical "has your stress level decreased" or "what can I do to improve our sessions?" and create questions that can be directly tied back to values that are important to your organization. Being able to show this kind of value will get much more attention that will support the continuation and growth of your mindfulness program; especially when people transition back to the office, you don't want to lose momentum with your program, you want to build on it.
So, my invitation to anyone reading this who has been thinking about learning to facilitate mindfulness for their colleagues or community, I'd like to let you know that this is an opportune time to jump on this.
The barrier is lower, and the acceptance level is much higher right now - and you can help many people learn to integrate mindfulness into their lives to create a better experience of life.
To all who are already championing mindfulness - thank you!
~Wendy Quan, Founder, The Calm Monkey