Practicing mindfulness can help tune out the added work environment distractions and stressors which COVID-19 has created. Even so, it might not seem intuitive for a successful midsize company to advance its continuous quality improvement program by training its employees in what we call professional mindfulness.
During my years as president & CEO, Northeast Delta Dental has adopted policies resulting in engaged and empowered employees. We offer training beginning with multi-faceted new employee onboarding and provide many training opportunities preparing employees for internal advancement. Despite outstanding employee survey results and winning awards for our HR practices, a few years ago we recognized that our employees were feeling the stress that comes with complex business issues in a distraction-rich environment. After researching possible stress reduction remedies, we decided to offer monthly training in the facets of mindfulness that could be applied in a business setting.
Mindfulness is often equated with meditation, possibly because the word has many definitions. At Northeast Delta Dental, we define mindfulness as “intentionally directing awareness to the present moment, in a focused and sustained manner, with nonjudgment”. The word “nonjudgment” is important because we’re trained in nonjudgmental communication, and “sustained” reflects our training in time management. We apply three elements of mindfulness: effective communication, time management, and meditation.
Mindfulness is important for communication because we are a service organization and many of us communicate directly with stakeholders, including our customers. Effective communication includes listening respectfully and trying to understand the speaker’s viewpoint before talking. Mindfulness has helped us identify time management tools that help employees work more efficiently, be more productive, and experience less stress. We also explore ways to make our meetings more mindful, apply mindfulness to our email and texting habits, and encourage unitasking rather than multitasking. Meditation is at the heart of mindfulness, and we encourage our employees to meditate regularly and provide quiet space in which they can relax, clear their minds, and let go of distractions.
Employees are encouraged to participate in training and apply mindfulness principles. About 30% of our employees have participated in mindfulness training offered since 2017. Feedback from confidential interviews conducted by an independent research consultant shows that those regularly practicing professional mindfulness receive positive benefits that include increased focus and productivity and decreased stress and anxiety.
If you are interested in exploring this topic further and are a member of the American Society for Quality (ASQ), you can read my May 2020 article entitled “Living for the Moment” in their publication, Quality Progress (QP), or you can click here. Another source on the topic is Mindfulness: A Better Me; A Better You; A Better World, a book I coauthored with Annabel Beerel, PhD, the organizational expert who trains our employees in professional mindfulness. If you have any questions about professional mindfulness or practice it in your business and want to share some of your experiences, I’d be happy to hear from you.