Whilst everyone likes the idea of being relaxed at work it is difficult in most companies to find the necessary support to make that kind of holistic change. Three excuses may be heard repeatedly: no time, no space, or the managers wouldn't accept it.
These answers indicate a lack of understanding of the true benefits of relaxation. Any manager who really knows the difference it can make will create space, time and support throughout the workplace.
An anecdote can only suggest the potential but such stories are becoming increasingly common.
The sales teams of a well-known London company had not made a single sale for two months. One morning they happened to have organized a one hour relaxation session for the whole team. The same afternoon they made £200,000 (around $560,000). Some of them thought it was pure coincidence. Others wondered whether there was some connection.
Apple Computers, Yahoo, and Google are three major international companies that actively encourage their employees to practice relaxation or meditation, at every level from executives down. After exercise, relaxation has been shown as the number 1 factor in improving performance and health. A little internet research will help develop the argument supporting relaxation in the workplace. Once that's in place it's time to find a way to implement it.
Some organizations, such as the Ministry of Transport in New Zealand, make special breakout rooms where people can relax during the day. The logic is simple. An agitated employee is good for nothing. It's better to spend 30 minutes calming down and then work effectively thereafter, than to spend all day quietly fuming, unable to concentrate properly.
Ideally every company would make time for employees to relax daily, simply because of the results. Trelise Cooper, top Auckland fashion designer, brings all her staff together at 9.15 each morning for a short meditation, part of the holistic approach Trelise credits it for taking her business beyond her wildest dreams. But in a world that is less than ideal it is also quite acceptable to encourage people to do it at home. It's not only good for work. It improves health, helps relationships, gives you more energy for family and social life and cuts down the need for stimulation by alcohol, smoking and coffee.
The real key is to prove that it works. HR staff are often more open to relaxation than other parts of senior management. A small pilot program is the simplest way to spread the message more widely. Take some key performers in the organization, preferably including those with clearly defined performance targets (for example sales staff) and invite them to take part in a relaxation program for one month, say 20-30 minutes daily. Results speak more than a thousand arguments.
The really wise organization will employ a specialist, someone who is expert in relaxation and whose sole role is to support staff to gain happiness and greater relaxation. Smaller companies can band together to share a specialist, perhaps working online. The cost of a salary will more than outweigh the benefit to the company in increased revenue and reduced sick leave and health expenses. Dr Sven Hansen, Director of Resilience Practice for PWC, with a special interest in developing leadership teams, says "We're firing our brains to death with a gadget infested world. This is leading to adult attention deficit disorders, similar to the ADHD which is becoming so common in children. Leaders manage attention. If you can't control your own attention, how on earth can you control the attention and strategy of a large organization?" Or to put it more simply, "The relaxed mind works better."
By Sarah McCrum MA, PGCE, Dip LC
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