Can mindfulness help companies thrive in times of turmoil?

Can mindfulness help companies thrive in times of turmoil?

Imagine a typical day at the office. You wake up and leave the house early in the morning to avoid the traffic. The journey to work is a little hectic and then you work your way through a bunch of emails. You have to plan and manage projects and complex tasks concurrently. You're forced to work faster and produce more results within less time, while being able to be creative and innovative. There are constant interruptions throughout the day, including unexpected telephone calls and instant messages from social media channels. You are required to coordinate with team members and other stakeholders from different cultures and time zones, and you attend one meeting after another. By the afternoon, perhaps you start to feel exhausted and restless. And then, to keep up with an ever-increasing workload, you continue to work late into the evening. By the time you leave work, there is a strong chance that you feel drained due to stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and frustration.

Working in this manner appears to be increasingly commonplace, especially in times of huge economic and social changes imposed by the Thailand 4.0 model, wherein there is a strong drive to use innovation and technology in order to develop the nation's economy and wealth. However, for such a model to be successful, technological knowledge and expertise will not suffice – people in all organisations need to develop from the inside-out to keep pace with fast business changes and fierce competition.

Defining mindfulness

One such means of fostering personal and professional development in this manner is mindfulness that involves being aware of what is happening here and now, both in the body and the mind. The practice is based on the premise that the past is history, the future is fantasy, and the only place we can truly embrace life is the present moment. During the last ten years, mindfulness has gained popularity in the West, mostly as a means of helping people find peace and calm amid increasingly hectic lifestyles. According to Venerable Dr. Edo Shonin, a Buddhist monk and leading mindfulness expert, "living mindfully means breathing and knowing that you are breathing, and walking and knowing that you are walking. Mindfulness is concerned with living well and helping others to live well. It is the art of being a good human being and of fully appreciating the short time we have on this Earth".

Five domains of emotional intelligence

While deriving from Buddhist meditation, mindfulness is not religion-based – it is a means of mental training with scientifically proven benefits. Among a number of other benefits, an individual's levels of Emotional Intelligence can be increased by practicing mindfulness.

The emotional intelligence expert Daniel Goleman classifies emotional intelligence into five domains:

- Self-awareness

Ability to know one's internal states, preferences, resources, and intuitions;

- Self-regulation

Ability to manage one's internal states, impulses, and resources;

- Motivation

Emotional tendencies that guide or facilitate reaching goals;

- Empathy

Awareness of others' feelings, needs, and concerns;

- Social skills

Adeptness at inducing desirable responses in others.

These five qualities are deemed to be sufficient for an employee to achieve good work performance and productivity, great interpersonal skills, a service mindset, job satisfaction, organisational citizenship and engagement, and effective leadership and decision-making skills. This is probably the reason why in the UK and US, mindfulness has been introduced to employees by numerous corporations such as General Mills, Target, Apple, Google, Intel, SAP, LinkedIn, Plantronics, McKinsey & Company, Sony Corporation, Ikea, Nike, Procter & Gamble, AOL, Goldman Sachs, Transport for London, and Monsanto.

Meditation Awareness Training

Various mindfulness programs have been conducted in corporations in the West to help their employees attain such performance-related benefits, and in the process help companies to thrive and remain competitive. A program of research led by Dr. William Van Gordon of the University of Derby (UK), has introduced a mindfulness intervention known as Meditation Awareness Training (MAT) to employees, ranging from workers on sick leave to senior executives of Blue-chip companies. The intervention is normally delivered to groups and comprises a series of lectures, guided mindfulness exercises tailored for the workplace, group discussion tasks, and an individual component where employees meet with the mindfulness instructor on a one-to-one basis.

Findings from a randomised controlled trial involving 152 middle-level managers showed that the intervention led to a 20% increase in job performance as rated by employees' direct line managers, and a 50% increase in job satisfaction as rated by employees. Another study, involving middle-level managers, showed that following training in mindfulness, employees experienced greater decision-making competency as well as a greater ability to remain calm under pressure. One middle manager who took part in the study said, "When I was able just to stop and be with myself, everything became completely relaxed. You sit back and observe – you start to see new angles and opportunities." Another manager said, "Being present and without ego means you're less caught up in the nonsense. You just get right to the point and you stay there … you work better and you feel better".

In our Human Resource Watch article next week, we will give examples of how these concepts of mindfulness and emotional intelligence, along with Meditation Awareness Training can work effectively to enhance performance related benefits and help companies to thrive and remain competitive.


Author: Bhusaba Taecharoen, Associate Consultant of Latchmere Performance Solutions, a company that helps business develop global leaders and high-performance cultures. Contact: Bhusaba@latchmeresolutions.com, www.latchmeresolutions.com

Series Editor: Christopher F. Bruton is Executive Director of Dataconsult Ltd, Chris@dataconsult.co.th. Dataconsult's Thailand Regional Forum provides seminars and extensive documentation to update businesses on future trends in Thailand and in the Mekong Region.

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