Stress!!!! Ask any ambitious woman if and how it affects their work and they’re almost guaranteed to have an answer or an anecdote of a time when things all seemed a little bit too hard and it affected their performance.
From lost sleep, to a negative mindset to even wasting half an hour immobilised by that feeling of being completely overwhelmed, there’s no arguing our ability to manage stress is a key factor in our professional (and personal) success.
Needless to say, this concept is running hot within the corporate world at the moment, as employers recognise the importance of focusing on building concentration, boosting productivity and supporting healthy minds.
Earlier this month, we had the privilege of speaking with Lucy Richards, General Manager of Smiling Mind, a company dedicated to incorporating the aspect of Mindfulness Meditation into education, sport and corporate life.
She was kind enough to share some insight into this concept, how it can be integrated into corporate career and how a little bit of “om” can go a long way.
Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration behind Smiling Mind?
James Tutton and Jane Martino co-founded not-for-profit Smiling Mind in partnership with ReachOut.com by Inspire Foundation to provide a simple, accessible tool to manage stress and increase resilience. Having developed their own Mindfulness Meditation practice as a way to deal with the pressures of everyday life, Jane and James wanted to pass on these skills to their children, and saw a need for this in the wider community. This was the initial driver behind creating the free web-based program and App, using online delivery methods to make the well-being programs low-cost, accessible and easy to use.
What impact do you think factors like stress, lack of focus and lack of resilience are having on young, ambitious people?
Stress can be incredibly stifling and prevents you from backing yourself and seizing opportunities. Research from all over the world shows that meditation builds the skills to manage not only stress but builds a strong resilient foundation for handling our ever changing, fast paced environment. In my experience, it has given me a sense of ‘invincibility’ because knowing I have the skills to manage stress, expectations and change, means I feel equipped to deal with the challenges thrown at me.
Mindfulness has given me the confidence to launch into anything wholeheartedly and know that whatever happens, things will fundamentally ‘be ok’.
And what is the flow-on effect for companies?
A recent report released from beyondblue and PwCrevealed that for every $1 companies invest in their employees’ mental health, there is a return on investment of $2.30. The fact is,when employees feeling stressed this impacts a company’s bottom line. I believe that companies have a responsibility to look after their employees well-being. This will not only support them to live happier, healthier lives, but also make them more engaged employees and brand ambassadors for their place of work.
It seems like there is a general trend towards increased social responsibility for companies and their employees. What role do you think mindfulness plays in this?
There is an increasing responsibility for employers to provide programs and resources that support their employees. Learning the skills of mindfulness can equip employees with the tools to manage change, stress and increasing workloads.As we see an increasingly blurred line between work and home life, this is becoming more and more important.
Looking at Smiling Mind specifically, all the profits from our Corporate Program go towards supporting mental health for young people in schools and the community. Through our Sport, Education, Corporate and Community Programs, we are working to address the issues that can cause mental health and provide a preemptive tool for all. And what does the most recent research tell us about the actual physiological effects and benefits of meditation?
Recent studies show us that Mindfulness Meditation can support managing stress, emotional reactivity, increase focus and concentration, and even develop a more effective immune response. What this can mean for corporate is reduced absenteeism, reduced costs, increased productivity and an overall engaged and a positive, open-minded working environment.
What is your Naked Ambition?
My goals are directly tied to my values and how I feel so I don’t always know what my Naked Ambition looks like, but I know how it feels so I work towards what it feels like to be living and achieving my Naked Ambition, rather than tying them to a specific outcome.
Long-term I would love to manage a large group of people, ensuring they feel engaged, are values driven and feel empowered in their work.