Updated: Oct 1, 2020
Would you like to see a world in which compassion, wellbeing and kindness is the new normal? Do you ever wonder how businesses could play a bigger part in helping positivity and collective wellness to flourish? Conscious business with a more mindful approach could be the answer to building back better post-pandemic; creating a healthier eco-system that works for all would enable everyone to thrive, rather than simply survive.
The need for more conscious businesses
The traditional model of doing business is not going to cut it in a post-pandemic world. A much more thoughtful approach is urgently required, where businesses make a positive social impact. Conscious businesses are a powerful force for good and are focused on creating value rather than simply extracting it; the aim of the business is to make a positive impact by having a deep awareness and understanding of its effect on both people and planet. Conscious Capitalism Inc segmented this philosophy into four parts:
Having a higher purpose – conscious businesses make a commitment to a specific purpose, beyond merely generating profit. What do you feel passionately about? What cause do you want your business to support? What impact do you want your business to have?
Creating a conscious culture – a conscious culture with a strong ethos is designed to support the personal and professional growth of the company’s employees so that they can develop personally and professionally and feel fulfilled within their roles.
Instilling conscious leadership – conscious leaders within the business understand and cultivate a conscious culture, in order to achieve a higher purpose.
Developing stakeholder orientation – the business creates alignment between the interests of all stakeholders, from employees, to clients, customers, suppliers and communities.
What it means to be mindful
The awareness of the need to adopt a bigger picture approach to doing business coincided with the appreciation of the mindfulness movement in western society, a practice that has increased in popularity over the past decade and shares many of the same principles. Mindfulness is a self-care technique that requires an individual to show up fully, non-judgementally and wholeheartedly. It helps the individual to focus conscious attention on what’s happening in the here and now, whilst being aware of one’s thoughts, emotions intentions and behaviour.
Mindfulness has a place at both the individual and organisational level
At an individual level, mindfulness can help to reduce stress, anxiety and depression; by managing their thought processes, the individual can practice personal and professional resilience and learn skills so they can thrive at work and at home. At an organisational level, mindfulness can help to improve creativity and innovation in the workplace and create a more engaged and higher performing workforce. Leading organisations including Google and GSK have introduced mindfulness at work programmes in response to placing increasing importance on employee wellbeing and many companies have sought to introduce more mindful practices within the workplace.
“People’s mental and physical health is affected by a myriad of different factors at work, and it’s only by paying serious attention to all of these that an organisation can achieve a joined-up approach to well-being.” CIPD’s 2020 health and wellbeing at work report
The Mindful Business Charter
In 2018, three leading UK banks and nine of the UK’s top law firms joined forces to establish and launch the Mindful Business Charter. The charter is a shared agenda, designed to support employee mental health and wellbeing; its signatories include Addleshaw Goddard, Ashurst, Baker McKenzie, Barclays, Clifford Chance, Eversheds Sutherland, Hogan Lovells, Lloyds Banking Group, NatWest, Norton Rose Fulbright, Pinsent Masons and Simmons & Simmons. The charter encourages:
openness and respect through effective communication;
smart meetings and emails - the operation of smart meetings, by enabling employees to join meetings by the method that is most suitable for them and asking staff to avoid over-use of emails;
respecting rest periods to allow staff to ‘switch off’;
mindful delegation such as providing sufficient context about a piece of work and negotiating realistic deadlines
The Mindful Business Charter is making real strides to change attitudes, reduce many unhelpful and avoidable working practices and to ensure long-term and sustainable positive change.
How businesses can adopt a more conscious and mindful approach
Prior to the start of the covid-19 pandemic, many businesses were already changing working practices to adopt a more mindful approach, as the impact of digital distractions and an 'always-on' culture has increasingly encroached on employees’ personal time outside the workplace and has had a detrimental impact on individual and collective health and happiness. The covid-19 lockdown accelerated the need to create a more human and healthy work culture, as an antidote to stress, busyness and potential burnout. As a result, many people want to manage their mindset, thoughts and feelings effectively and want their career to be aligned and in harmony with their personal values, to give them a deeper sense of purpose and fulfilment. In addition to ensuring that a business operates with a higher purpose, a conscious culture, has conscious leadership and ensures stakeholder orientation, company leaders could also consider incorporating the following points:
Operate a values-based recruitment strategy – ‘culture fit’ is incredibly important when hiring new employees and should be at the forefront of the recruitment process. Hiring staff that have personal values and work culture preferences that align with the company will ensure that new recruits are much happier in their role as their personal and professional values will be aligned.
Train staff to adopt a mindful approach – it’s important to train new and existing members of staff to be mindful and respectful in all dealings with colleagues, clients and other stakeholders. Having a shared agenda such as the Mindful Business Charter will offer clarity for staff so that they are aware of the expectations and can be mindful in the workplace. Other initiatives may include introducing a ‘quiet hour’ over lunchtime where emails and calls should be paused in order to enable everyone within the organisation to take a break; encouraging walking meetings so that staff can get outside and make the most of fresh air and the natural light whilst taking a call or walking alongside their colleagues; encouraging staff to switch off outside of working hours also helps them to practice self-care so that they can enhance their well-being and bring the best version of themselves to work.
Mindful initiatives must be rooted in authenticity
Any mindful initiatives need to come from deep within the business and authentically have an impact on the company’s culture, both from the bottom up and from the top down, in order to be effective. Many companies have established corporate wellness programmes that invite employees to participate in yoga or meditation sessions or online programmes such as stress reduction and nutrition advice. Yet it’s not enough to simply offer a product or service; corporate leaders should actively create a supportive environment, encourage staff to be healthy and active and maintain a good work-life balance. Business leaders should review the Mindful Business Charter and consider how their company culture could support a more mindful approach. In addition, the company’s higher purpose should also be at the heart of all business decisions, including the introduction of any mindful initiatives, to ensure that the business’ activities are fully aligned with its purpose and core values.
The most effective way to build back better, starting now In order to thrive over the longer term there needs to be a significant shift in the way in which businesses and individuals think and operate. Conscious business coupled with a more mindful approach can ensure that social, cultural, physical, spiritual, intellectual, environmental and financial needs are met to form a much healthier ecosystem where the majority benefit, not just the minority. Is conscious business with a more mindful approach the future? Without a doubt, in fact, it needs to start now.