Introduce Mindfulness to a Resistant Workforce?

posted by Martin Boroson on May 15 2017

Since I first began designing and delivering mindfulness programs for organizations, back in 2007, I have had the pleasure of meeting many wonderful people— wellness champions, heads of HR, conference planners, and heads of leadership and talent development–who really want to introduce mindfulness into their workplace.

But many have faced one particular problem: fear.

They are concerned that there will be significant pushback from conservative members of their organization, and are hesitant to take the first step. Even today, they are concerned that mindfulness and meditation are fringe pursuits—irrelevant or even counter-productive—in a fast-paced, productivity-focused culture.

There’s a rising tide

At the recent Mindfulness at Work Conference in London, I chaired a roundtable on this subject:  How to Introduce Mindfulness to a Resistant Workforce. And I’m pleased to say that the first thing my group did was challenge the assumption the workforce is actually resistant.

The world has changed a lot in the last few years, and the explosion of interest in mindfulness—particularly in the corporate world—is remarkable. The business case for mindfulness—given its demonstrable benefits for focus, productivity, stress management, and emotional intelligence—is easy to make.

In recent years, I have even worked with some of the more ‘conservative’ institutions—financial services, engineering, management consulting, and the pharmaceutical industry. Many such organizations are now building mindfulness programs that are extremely successful.

So if you are hesitating to introduce mindfulness, the first thing to remember is that mindfulness is now mainstream. There is a rising tide here, so it is definitely time to float your boat.

Put up the poster

If you are still worried, then it comes down to this: just put up a poster and see what happens. You never know until you try. And I would wager that most people will not be resistant at all – hesitant, perhaps, but not resistant.

Indeed, I would say that there are a lot of people who are dying for it. People these days are really stressed. They are not sleeping. Their families are stressed. They are worried about the future. And they know that mindfulness and meditation will help them. The case has been proven. And they will welcome the opportunity to learn.

I would also wager that they will also be excited to see that someone is trying to introduce mindfulness and meditation into their workplace. In some cases, this will be the first ray of hope they see in a bleak, oppressive, or at least stressful, environment.  Your initiative might even make it possible for them to stay engaged, and renew their enthusiasm for the job.

What if no one comes?

But for a moment, let’s imagine the worst-case scenario: you have picked a time, reserved a room, put up your poster … and no one comes.

Was your initiative a failure?

No. You succeeded in introducing the subject of mindfulness in your workplace. Everything starts somewhere.

And then what?  You are sitting there in an empty room, feeling discouraged. You might be tempted to creep back to your desk, hoping no one will notice that no one was interested in mindfulness in your workplace.

There is another option:  have the mindfulness session anyway. With just you.

In other words, use that time to practice. Use that time to be mindful. After all, that is what that time and space were designated for.

Then you won’t be just that person who put introduced the subject of mindfulness in your workplace–you will have actually started doing some mindfulness practice in your workplace.

Introduce mindfulness: one by one

But don’t stop there. Just keep offering your sessions. Just keep practicing no matter who comes or doesn’t come, and this will start attracting people, bit by bit. They will come. Because they need it.

You may of course need to explore making certain tweaks in your offering. You might need to change the time, date, the format, and the marketing. (We can help you with that.) Indeed, you might want to offer a variety of options. For example, one global pharmaceutical company I work with now offers mindfulness sessions that are entirely web-based—these now attract over 700 people from around the world.

It always starts here …

The most important thing is just to start. With you. Being mindful. Right here. Right now.



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