The Pursuit of Happiness and Mindfulness In The Workplace, With Monica Mascarenhas Prabhu

“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR).

“The one thing I would do if I had more time…” is a prompt that I like to begin my Optimising Efficiency sessions. The answers, however, are rather disheartening – “spend time with family and friends” and “get some sleep” are the top two responses suggesting that basic human needs aren’t being met. When probed further, the unanimous answer from participants is that they feel like they are in “firefighter mode 24/7”.

“Where do you see yourself five years from now?” is a question I ask to begin my Resilience sessions. “Happy” and “retired” are the top two responses to that question. These participants aren’t 40+ senior executives. Instead, they are visibly burnt out 25-year-olds in the early career stages of their corporate life.

So, what does this tell us?

Monica Mascarenhaus Prabhu

The Effects of Stress in the Workplace: Fight or Flight

As businesses push to keep afloat during these challenging times, many employees face additional pressures of meeting tight deadlines and working across different time zones whilst experiencing the challenges of technology.

But can employees be creative and productive while in survival mode?

While the mind tries to deal with these demands, a fight or flight response is activated, and attention to the present gets pushed aside.

The results? Poor leadership, impaired creativity, unhealthy relationships, miscommunication, and an overall toxic work environment, leading to collective losses in millions of dollars.

In the US alone, the cost of stress is estimated at around $300 billion and is responsible for over 40% of employee turnover.

The American Institute of Stress

case study

Adapting to change: How can leaders support employee wellbeing?

Most of the leaders I have coached over the past year have said they have increased their focus on building and maintaining trust, having honest discussions with their teams about the challenges whilst working remotely, and delving into how employees feel.

In such times of change, mental health and mindfulness has proven to play a crucial part in learning and development in the workplace. It allows businesses to redefine and establish supportive cultures to build connected, engaged and resilient employees, to survive the new normal and excel in their roles.

Consciously being aware of feelings, thoughts and emotions in the present moment can lead to a balanced way of surviving and thriving at work.

For over a decade, I’ve coached and facilitated hundreds of corporate executives across the globe to enable employees to communicate effectively, lead with purpose, be more resilient, increase creativity, inspire, motivate and transform.

A few years ago, I conducted a session on mindfulness for a group of employees at a corporation that was going through many changes and challenges at the time.

I taught them simple techniques, like focusing on their breath and mind as it tried to make sense of, and prioritise all the constant and simultaneous demands in life.

As I went through the session with them, it was clear that mindfulness was at the root of it all.

Whether it is active listening, leadership presence, cross-cultural intelligence, building resilience, creativity, innovation or trust-building in teams, it all comes down to how mindful we truly are.

What is mindfulness, and how can we practise it in the workplace?

Paying attention – to the present, not five minutes ago and not five minutes from now. The mind aims to keep us safe. It detects threats in the environment constantly – even when there aren’t any. Mindfulness is the ability to watch the mind’s negative interpretation of every situation, what should or should not have happened or fearing what may happen, while working or talking to someone in the here and now.

Non judgementally: We have all been conditioned – to make judgements, to like or dislike -people, things and circumstances, this leads to chronic stress – interpreting a situation as a threat when there actually isn’t one! Whether we realise it or not, this causes us a lot of mental agony and clouds our judgement and creativity. Mindfulness teaches us to watch our minds making judgements, and if observed carefully, it begins to quieten, raising our happiness quotient.

With purpose: With practice, we realise how to be intentionally mindful, and this soon becomes a habit. Just like waking up and stretching every morning, we naturally begin to develop more empathy and kindness to ourselves and others.

Two techniques to become mindful at work:

The body scan: When you’re aware of the sensations in the body, emotions and feelings in the moment is known as the body scan. This relaxes you by shifting focus to the present and calming the mind. Many guided body scan audios and videos are available online for free.

Breath awareness: Concentrating on your breathing and the pause between each breath is known as breath awareness. This trains the brain to focus on one thing at a time. In time, the focus moves to the only task you’re performing at the time without allowing the mind to wander. This increases efficiency, creativity and productivity, amongst many other benefits.

About Monica Mascarenhas Prabhu

Monica is an MBSR practitioner and mindfulness coach supporting people to use the benefits of mindfulness to reduce stress, increase creativity, empathy and the quality of their relationships. She has led teams in diverse industries across America, Australia, Europe, Middle East and South-East Asia and brings cultural awareness and sensitivity into her coaching.

Monica has coached various leaders and senior executives at Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, 3M, Swiss Re, GE, Novo Nordisk, Parexcel, Cisco Systems, Siemens, EMC2, SAP, E&Y, and Volvo.

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