The key component of creating a positive and mindful culture in the workplace is to foster an environment where employees feel cared for and respected. This is, of course, easier said than done.
This culture generally has to be encouraged and exemplified by those in managerial and leadership positions. If those in leadership are mistreating or indifferent toward their direct reports, then there is a good chance the direct reports will treat the new hires in a similar manner. This will ultimately create an environment of distrust and disharmony.
The pandemic put everyone on edge. Working from home brought about new challenges in the lives of many, and now we are trying to figure out what a hybrid work environment looks like. Needless to say, companies and the way we work have gone through many transformations in the last few years, and creating and maintaining a healthy culture has been significantly challenged by these changes.
If we don’t want to become victims of “quiet quitting” and “the great resignation,” we will need to place greater emphasis on creating a healthy culture for in-person, hybrid and work-from-home employees.
Working with empathy
Since there has been an increase in mental- and emotional-health issues over the last year-and-a-half, it’s important that we are taking the time to understand the difficulties our workforce is experiencing. This can manifest as a lack of productivity or decreased engagement. Instead of jumping to conclusions about the effectiveness of a particular employee, we need to reach out and see what they are struggling with and genuinely offer some help in the form of resources or even time off for mental health. It can be as simple as taking the time to understand what someone is going through without judgement.
This type of behavior will greatly increase trust and loyalty between the employee and her or his leader and the organization. This is something colleagues can do for one another, and it doesn’t necessarily have to come from the leadership. According to the Harvard Business Review, building positive social connections at work can improve productivity and collaboration.
Appreciation and recognition
Everyone wants to be appreciated and recognized for the work they have put in. There is nothing more discouraging than putting your heart and soul into a project and the managers or supervisors don’t appreciate your efforts. This approach is not going to be sustainable, because it will make workers want to jump ship and look for other opportunities where they are made to feel like their hard work matters.
Even outside of the work environment, nobody would want to stay in a relationship where they’re not properly appreciated and encouraged by their partner for the big and little things they do. So, if we hope to have a loyal employee base and improve retention, we will need to make sure we are sufficiently and consistently appreciating the endeavors of the workforce and encouraging colleagues to celebrate each other’s successes and not feel threatened by them.
• A verbal or handwritten thank you: Be specific in your appreciation. This lets them understand that you took notice of their specific contribution.
• Lunch: Everyone likes a free lunch, and it’s a relatively inexpensive way to express gratitude.
• Time off: Giving someone a half or full day off can be much appreciated by the employee, allowing them extra time to spend with family and friends.
• Monetary compensation: Who wouldn’t love a little extra cash for a job well done?
• Individual recognition in a company newsletter: This, of course, would require a significant contribution by the employee, but it’s sure to make one’s day when their accomplishments are publicly acknowledged.
Celebrating the success of colleagues
When a workplace becomes highly competitive, everyone becomes so focused on their own goals and achievements that it becomes increasingly difficult to appreciate the contributions being made by their colleagues and co-workers. It’s vital to create a mindful workplace culture where employees are encouraged to appreciate the contributions and positive qualities of each other.
When this happens, there naturally will be higher levels of trust between team members and teams, and this will facilitate collaboration between individuals, because no one is feeling threatened by someone else’s success.
Helping our colleagues succeed
With the “every-man-for-himself” (or “every-woman-for-herself”) corporate culture that exists in many organizations, no one is going to want to help anyone else succeed. Ultimately, this will stifle the growth of the individuals and the larger organization.
We don’t want a workplace culture where an individual sits by while his or her colleague fails. People want to work in an environment where they’re not having to look over their shoulder and fear backstabbing. Rather, a workforce will thrive when employees can trust one another and know their co-workers have their back.
Leading by example
Those in leadership positions have to lead by example and walk the walk if they hope to transform the culture in their workplace. This essentially means they need to be able to, on a regular and consistent basis, appreciate the contributions being made by their workforce. This will serve as a motivating tool for colleagues to do the same with one another.
We can’t ask others to do something we ourselves aren’t doing. We can’t expect others to recognize each other’s contributions if we are not leading the charge. If we do, we will lose all credibility really fast, and this will diminish the mood and inspiration for the rest of the workforce. Most people have grown tired of witnessing leaders say one thing and then do another.
Mindfulness in the workplace
Mindfulness isn’t limited to sitting down, closing your eyes and meditating. It includes how we react and respond to people we don’t get along with and how we handle stressful and conflicting situations. A steady mindfulness practice not only helps us lower our stress levels, but also decreases our tendency to react in delicate situations.
A simple practice of taking a few deep breaths throughout the day before a potentially challenging meeting can help clear the clutter of the mind and calm our emotions so we are more prepared to deal with whatever is going to come next.
A simple three-minute routine one can follow is:
• Take 10 deep breaths, filling your lungs completely, then exhaling. Feel grateful for something that’s currently happening in your life and something that happened in the past.
• Appreciate one colleague you have a positive relationship with and one you have a challenging relationship with. This is a great way to shift our mindset toward people we don’t get along with so well.
Changing culture is not something that’s going to happen overnight, and it’s not going to be easy. There will be much resistance along the way. It will require determination on the part of leadership and buy-in from the rest of the team. However, if we want our organization to thrive and have longevity, creating a mindful and positive workplace culture will need to become an essential part of the journey.
Pandit Dasa is a keynote speaker on workplace culture, the future of work, resilience, mental health and mindfulness. He is an author and former monk who now speaks at many Fortune 500 companies and many of the world’s largest organizations, including Google, NASA, The London Stock Exchange, IBM, Chase, Royal Bank of Canada, Novartis, AT&T, Kellogg’s and others.
This article is a preview of a presentation he is scheduled to make on the same topic during TCIA’s Winter Management Conference ’24 in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, this coming February.