Posted by OfficeTeam on Wednesday, June 22, 2016 - 11:00 | Follow me
Projects with seemingly impossible deadlines. Urgent requests continually flooding your inbox. Late-night email messages from the CEO that need responses right away. There are plenty of things that cause stress at work for busy administrative professionals. While we’re hard-pressed to change the people or circumstances that prompt workplace anxiety, we can change the way we respond to them. And one way to manage stress is to practice mindfulness at work.
Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” In other words, it’s about being actively attentive to your situation and your mental and physical responses to it.
Mindfulness is not as “New Agey” as it sounds. It’s a core component of traditional wellness practices like yoga and meditation. Increasingly, doctors and scientists advocate mindfulness as a way to help people lose weight, control their emotions and deal with challenging relationships.
It’s also an effective tool for managing stress at work — whether you feel it yourself or find it spreading contagiously through your team. Practicing mindfulness at work involves identifying the causes and effects of stress, and then taking steps to manage both. You can harness mindfulness to manage your own well-being at work, and coach your team in these strategies as well.
Identify stress points
Being attentive to a situation, noting and accepting our responses to it without judgment, and moving on — these are the three key components of mindfulness.
First, scan your calendar over the past month. What events or activities caused anxiety, frustration or stress at work for you or your staff? Can you pinpoint triggers — for example, overflowing inboxes, a big project with a tight deadline or an important presentation that required extensive preparation? Are there patterns, like a regular team meeting, that leaves everyone frustrated?
Second, evaluate your team’s responses to those triggers. Do colleagues become short-tempered with each other? Do they try to do too many things at once in an effort to manage the workload? Does the quality of their work suffer? Do they cluster near the coffee maker and vent?
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Practice mindfulness at work
Once you’ve helped your team identify the causes and effects of stress at work, take mindful approaches to managing them. Here are a few tips:
- Start strong. Encourage your team to take a few minutes to quietly settle in at their desks and mentally prepare before diving into email and other tasks each day. Avoid scheduling meetings first thing, if you can avoid it.
- Anticipate and accept. No matter how carefully we try to avoid it, stress is a workplace fixture. We can let it catch us off-guard and buckle our knees — or we can anticipate it, perhaps grumble a bit and then shift into a positive, solution-finding mode. Being attentive to a situation, noting and accepting our responses to it without judgment, and moving on — these are the three key components of mindfulness.
- Create mindful meetings. Encourage staffers to block out 5 minutes before and after meetings, so they can set aside whatever they’re doing to prepare for the discussion and then decompress or follow up afterward. Allocating buffer time, plus sticking to an agenda, can help your team be more present, participatory and productive in meetings.
- Focus your attention. Administrators juggle multiple projects and requests coming from all directions — it’s part of the job description to be fast, agile and responsive. But mindfulness at work means giving your full attention to the task at hand. Employees feel overwhelmed when they try to do too much at once; coach them to focus on one thing at a time. Do what you can to manage their workload in a steady flow instead of unpredictable geysers.
- Take a break. Short pauses throughout the day allow us to recharge our brains and move our bodies — or to simply close our eyes, breathe deeply and calm our thoughts. Recommend regular 5-minute physical and mental breaks for your team — and yourself. Walk, stretch, meditate, whatever you need to disconnect from work.
- Use available resources. If your place of employment offers stress-management seminars, wellness programs, yoga or meditation classes, take advantage of them! Increasingly, companies recognize that mindfulness training and other resources can help their staffers manage stress at work.
Learn 15 office exercises you can do at your desk to help you practice mindfulness at work.
Finally, if your team sees you practicing mindfulness at work, they’ll follow your cues. Tune into your own stress triggers, pay attention to your responses and take thoughtful steps to remain a calm, collected and engaged leader.
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