Can the mindfulness movement help reduce work stress?

For those employees who have survived the seemingly constant cut backs and layoffs, working longer hours and under increasing levels of stress has become commonplace. In one 2013 study, stress in Australian workers accounted for 20 million sick days annually, costing $14.81 billion. In Western Australia 25% of workers experiencing sleepless nights, making W.A the most stressed Australian state (it’s hardly a surprise that Queensland is the least stressed).

In an effort to boost morale and productivity in the workplace, some of the world’s biggest corporations are turning to the practice of mindfulness.

Mindfulness, the therapeutic technique of focusing on the present moment, and one’s emotions and thoughts at the time, is encouraging change in workplaces across the world.

One organisation at the heart of the movement is the Wake Up Project, who host events such as the Mindful Leadership Forum to educate people on Mindfulness.

The Project was started by Jono Fisher, who quit a well-paying job to start a “kindness revolution” through training businesses to be “creative and conscious”. Since 2008, the organisation has distributed over 350,000 of their free ‘kindness cards’ to encourage people to continue the revolution Fisher began. After anonymously carrying out a kind act, such as leaving chocolate or flowers on a colleagues’ desk, the card is left to encourage the recipient to extend an act of kindness for someone else.


Order some kindness cards for your workplace today

The Mindful Leadership Forum, being held in Sydney this September, aims to inspire business leaders to inject greater mindfulness into their company’s workplace culture. The basis of this are the three ‘pillars’ of mindful leadership:

"We need less noise and more space; less directing and more listening.”- Jono Fisher, Founder of Wake Up Project

Pillar 1: self-awareness
Learning how to effectively respond to stress is a key step in becoming more mindful at work. Through a sense of calm and putting oneself fully in the moment, mindful people are better able to make and inspire more creative and intelligent decisions in stressful situations.

Pillar 2: compassion
Creating a culture of kindness and understanding, rather than one of stress is integral to creating a workplace that is happy and productive. Mindful Leaders are trained to establish and maintain high quality relationships with their employees.

Pillar 3: authenticity
To be an effective Mindful Leader, bringing their whole selves to work each day is a must. Authenticity means not having to act like someone else, being honest and real with their staff, and always being prepared to “walk the talk”.

As Fisher feels, a transition away from one-way engagement between management and staff is needed, “we need less noise and more space; less directing and more listening”.

"Mindful leadership is not a spectator sport. It's about training our own individual mind and heart.” - Jono Fisher

The speakers
The two-day event will feature talks from some of the biggest minds pioneering the revolution to be more mindful. Five of the 12 presenters will be flying in from either the UK and the US, including leaders from Harvard University, SAP, General Electric and the World Economic Forum.

Home-grown speakers include the ABC’s Clare Bowditch, best-selling author Petrea King, and Wake Up Project founder Fisher.

The Forum has inspired leaders from a wide range of top businesses, including Virgin Australia, Woolworths Limited, Australia Post and Origin Energy, whose leaders have all applauded the Mindful Leadership Forum

“We’re seeing stress levels increasing, anxiety levels increasing, senses of exhaustion increasing at pretty significant rates." - Jono Fisher

The results speak for themselves
For anyone sceptical about how important and relevant ‘mindful leadership’ really is, they only need to hear the feedback. Gordon Cairns, chairman of Woolworths, Australia’s second largest private employer, praised the forum, saying “Mindful Leadership has made me a more effective leader”.

Of the attendees at 2014 and 2015 Forums, 95% reported an improved ability to help reduce stress, with 89% improving their ability to remain calm. 95% also reported an increase in their ability to connect with others.

Events such as the Mindful Leadership Forum can also be great opportunities to network with like-minded professionals across a wide variety of industries.

"It’s up to each of us to take responsibility and be the leader, the leader isn’t outside of ourselves, the leader is us. And it’s small things that we can do, small acts of awareness, small acts of compassion, small acts of showing up as ourselves." - Jono Fisher

As executive chairman of the executive search company Korn Ferry, Katie Lahey recently told WYZA, networking is especially important for older job seekers looking to get back into the workforce.

If your company has a training budget, talk with your manager about getting tickets to this event. The Mindful Leadership Forum will be held on the 22nd and 23rd September, 2016 at The Concourse, Chatswood. Register for attendance here: mindfulleadershipforum.com. For a two-day pass, the Forum costs $1,590 per person, or $1,390 for a one-day pass. Book here.

What habits help you be effective in the workplace? Let us know in the comments section below.