A couple of weeks ago I attended an event organized by sf.citi at Pinterest HQ on the popular topic of burnout. Burnout has been around for a very long time and stress is now a "common" part of everyone's life, especially in Silicon Valley. However, burnout was officially made a medical condition just a couple of months ago. Simultaneously, wellness and mindfulness have been a trending topic in the HR space, and now companies offer wellness perks to their employees. But my main question on this topic is why is wellness considered a perk and how are perks going to stop burnout from happening? My immediate thought is wellbeing in the workplace should be engrained in the company culture and not limited by a perk, but can companies achieve this?
During the event, we got to first hear from Clare Purvis, Director of Behavioral Science at Headspace, one of the companies that are innovating how we approach mindfulness. I resonate with the Headspace mission because they don't want to limit themselves to just be a technology provider. Headspace for Work's mission is to create cultures of mindfulness to decrease stress.
Every time that I think about mindfulness or stress at work I immediately think there is no need to specify "at work" since the line between work and personal life is blurrier than ever in today's digital workforce. Headspace embraces this notion and opens the discussion with the fact that we will spend approximately 90,000 hours at work in our lifetime. In addition to this, research says that 90% of people believe work is their main source of stress. The good news is that their research done in companies like Google and others has shown that after 8 weeks of mindfulness practices there was a decrease of 50% of symptoms of depression and a 30% decrease of anxiety.
When thinking about creating a culture of wellbeing we should consider both the facilitation of individual behaviors and the processes that the company can implement to allow those behaviors to happen.
Headspace is helping companies create these individuals behaviors. So how can you incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily life? Clare shared with us some easy tips:
- Schedule meditations in your google calendar.
- Meditate or practice being present while you commute.
- Make a group at work to create accountability and start a habit of meditation together.
- Start to be aware of the type of relationship you have with your phone and put it away for some period of your day.
Professor Christina Maslach, a panelist during the event, said that one of the main problems about burnout in the corporate world is that we're only looking to provide our people with tools to cope with stress, and not focusing on the environment that is creating the symptoms of burnout.
Ask yourself the question, why is burnout even happening to my people in the first place? What do I need to change in my environment to prevent people from getting there? There is a metaphor we like to use at Beaconforce and that Christina also used during her talk. Have you ever helped a seed grow into a plant? If so, what did you do directly to the seed? You probably didn’t do anything to the seed, you simply put it in the ground, and then you influenced its environment. You made sure that the soil was the right one, that the amount of light and water was enough, and that the temperature was adequate. Consequently, the seed became a plant. The plant will always grow, as this is a natural consequence of a seed placed in a well-designed environment. This is the same with a healthy work environment that facilitates behaviors centered on wellbeing.
So, what are the soil, water, and sun of this type of work environment? At Beaconforce we call them the 7 pillars of intrinsic motivation. They are based on behavioral science, positive psychology and neuroscience so you may know about them in a different way or order.
- Clear Goals: The why and meaning your work and contribution has on the company's big picture.
- Continuous Feedback: The ongoing communication you get about your progress and achievements at work.
- Social Interaction: The nature of your relationships at work.
- Balanced Challenges: How much balance there is between your skills and resources and the challenge of your tasks.
- Sense of Improvement: A continuous learning and evolving aspect of your job and career.
- Risk Attitude: How companies approach errors and allow employees to try new ways.
- Sensation of Control: The autonomy and ownership you have of your own work.
Next time you think about wellbeing in the workplace, remember this thought:
"Having tools to cope with stress doesn't change your toxic job" - Christina Maslach
Lisa Paredes, Brand and Community Manager at Beaconforce | Lisa joined Beaconforce's early days to be a part of its mission to create work environments that allow people to be the best versions of themselves. Her passion for business and people led her to join Beaconforce's San Francisco team and help create a world where every single person wakes up in the morning and can't wait to go to work.