Alienation and uncertainty have increased dramatically in the post-COVID workplace. McKinsey, Harvard Business Review, and others report that increased levels of mindfulness training reduce employee stress, improve work-life balance and performance, and enhance employee engagement and retention.
In response, individuals and organizations are turning to mindfulness training. To learn more about the latest resources, tools, and applications of mindfulness training, I interviewed Rita Wuebbeler (RW) an executive coach and a certified and internationally recognized mindfulness leader who has helped thousands of corporate employees find balance and perspective in their lives. Wuebbeler is a long-distance cyclist, based in Atlanta.
Q: Why has mindfulness training become so popular since COVID?
Rita Wuebbeler: I think mindfulness training was popular even before the pandemic, with companies such as Google rolling out company-wide mindfulness programs such as the popular “Search Inside Yourself” program Google employee Chade-Meng Tan launched in 2007. And there were also conferences such as Wisdom 2.0 whose mission has been “to support people living with awareness and wisdom in our technology-rich age” since 2009. However, you’re right that the pandemic helped popularize the practice of mindfulness as it provides people with strategies for navigating high stress and burnout, as well as managing the feeling of isolation and loneliness.
Q: What is the value/impact of mindfulness training for the individual and the organization?
RW: There are lots of benefits individuals can derive from practicing mindfulness on a regular basis. These can include increased attention and focus, higher brain function, increased clarity, lowered blood pressure and heart rate, increased immune function, and lowered anxiety levels. Regular meditation practice focusing on awareness and kindness toward others and oneself can result in a feeling of being connected, benefiting teams and organizations.
Q: How has your own practice impacted you?
RW: My own practice has made me a more patient, less reactive, and, I would say, a kinder and nicer person—on a good day, anyway. This kindness extends toward others in the form of not judging them as quickly as I used to but practicing curiosity and acceptance instead. And it extends toward myself by being less harsh with my self-judgment and more forgiving of my mistakes and failures.
Q: How do you introduce and anchor mindfulness in organizations?
RW: Introducing mindfulness into organizations and anchoring it as a sustainable practice requires support from all directions: top, bottom, and from peers. In fact, it requires a culture change maintained by a wide network of champions. Unfortunately, not many organizations that I am aware of have leaders who support this type of mindfulness-based culture as it might be seen as “too soft” or “unproductive.” If leadership is not supportive of the effort, there’s little probability of successfully anchoring mindfulness in the organization.
Q: What is an example of mindfulness training being used in an organization or corporation? What formats have worked?
RW: One example is German-owned global enterprise software giant SAP. Its Chief Mindfulness Officer Peter Bostelmann and his team of four full-time employees are celebrating their 10th anniversary of training people in mindfulness practice: 16,000 employees in 60-plus locations in more than 30 countries at SAP, as well as 4,000 employees at client organizations. What has worked well for them is training internal facilitators for both virtual and in-person classes. SAP currently has approximately 65 active internal teachers, as well as 85 “mindfulness ambassadors” who help spread the word.
Q: What was one of your primary insights from the 8th Mindful Leader Summit in Washington, D.C., this past September?
RW: “The high water mark for mindfulness has passed,” one presenter said. In my opinion, this is a good thing. To me, it means the field is maturing in terms of education and training, application, and research. The discussion about where the field is going now considers questions such as “How do we make mindfulness more inclusive?” (a majority of practitioners still tend to be wealthy white people), “What does trauma-sensitive mindfulness really look like?” and “What is the role of mindfulness in an individualistic society?”
Q: What was your favorite presentation?
RW: My favorite presentation was by the director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, Marc Brackett, on “Unlocking Workplace Synergy.” Marc talked about the interplay between mindfulness techniques and emotional intelligence in professional settings. He stressed the importance of being able to describe one’s emotions with greater granularity (the center has developed a cool free app “How We Feel”) and to regulate them using mindfulness as one tool, as well as the significance of having a “Feeling Mentor” at work and in one’s personal life.
Q: How can trainers learn more if they want to become a mindfulness instructor?
RW: There are several training programs of varying lengths and foci available to aspiring mindfulness teachers. I would recommend the two-year “Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program,” which has a relatively broad focus, as well as a much shorter, more workplace-oriented four-month course called “Certified Workplace Mindfulness Facilitator.”
Q: What online tools, resources or podcasts do you recommend?
RW: I am big believer in meditation apps. My personal favorites are Insight Timer, Ten Percent Happier, and Headspace. As for podcasts, Ten Percent Happier and Mindful.org offer interesting topics to listen to, among many others. If anyone would like information on a free weekly meditation drop-in class or for other resource questions, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For any questions or to share best practices or experiences in Training and Development, e-mail: Neal@NealGoodmanGroup.com