For a very long time, workdays in many organisations have been characterized by a constant sense of urgency, a perpetual stress to achieve more in less time, and a deep sense of dissatisfaction emanating from ‘this is not enough’ management style.
Not just at work, there has been a sense of being swamped in other areas of our lives too. We have been just checking the box while rushing through our morning exercise, hurrying through our meals or consuming only the summary of the books and the news. We have become time-poor, caring so much about “how much we do” and so less about “what we do”.
The pandemic has made us acknowledge the importance of overall health and well-being, family and relationships, and most importantly a slower pace of life. It has pushed us out of that high speed productivity train we embarked upon to get more done.
As I experiment with mindful living in different areas of my life, I couldn’t help but think of what would make our work days and organisations a better place; a place where we live moment-to-moment and not weekend-to-weekend.
So, here is a 5-point plan for managers to enable a mindful working style in their teams and organizations.
Place Quality over Quantity
The number of projects initiated, the number of new market entries, the number of new store openings or the number of new clients acquired are just some of the gauges used for measuring effectiveness at work. Today, as we all seek more holistic and meaningful ways of living lives, a shift to a blended working style where quality is a guiding mantra will not only bolster our efficacy at work but also improve the experience of working. Constantly eliminating tasks that do not align with meaningful goals, being alright with fewer but better things to do and using quality of work done instead of the number of projects completed are a few examples that can help us pivot towards a more quality driven mindset.
Question what is ‘Urgent’
I have experienced a sense of time-sensitivity being created around almost every line item at work. Because we are so conditioned to pay more attention to time-sensitive tasks, the items that may not be time-sensitive but more rewarding in the long-term often get overlooked. Tools such as The Eisenhower matrix can play a great role in prioritization decisions. But, tools alone won’t solve our problems. To work mindfully, we need to stop ourselves from falling into the urgency-trap and get better at task and time management. Each time we call ourselves or our teams “busy”, we need to bucket our tasks into the 4 quadrants – Urgent and Important, Not Urgent and Important, Urgent and Unimportant, Not Urgent and Unimportant. And, if we find most of our work just tick the “Urgent” criteria, we need to thoroughly assess what are we really doing. Because, although inevitable, not everything at work can demand a crisis mode response. And, in the process we could very well be missing the forest for the tress!
What we choose to talk about as a business or a brand needs to be filtered and cautious. For example, the pandemic is not a fodder for creating more brand communications. As blunt as it may sound, creating content around a black swan event like Covid-19, can be counterproductive if the content does not solve a real problem. Even instilling a sense of safety or trust needs to be on the back of some solid groundwork. Most importantly, initiating a project pipeline to be able to create a talking point on social media can only meet with a deadpan response. A mindful communication of informed viewpoints and content that really helps the community will deepen employees as well as consumers’ respect for the work we do.
Appreciate the switch-off moments
Most of us would have experienced someone suggesting a working lunch to finish one last discussion or managers reaching out for work related queries well beyond working hours. Reaching out for work related queries in a non-working period is only acceptable when a rare situation demands so. And, we all would agree, food tastes better without having to talk about work! Learning and appreciating time-boundaries and the switch-off moments will help us develop a deeper regard for the time when people actually come together to work. It will help us develop a mutual admiration for each other, foster a better sense of planning and free up a lot of time which can be claimed for other pursuits. After all, being with family, reading a book, cooking, going for a walk are also part of our lives.
Apply a people-first mindset
Organizations spend a lot of time and money to understand its customers via research, market visits, social media engagements and what not. While that is great, asking what employees need at the moment can significantly strengthen work cultures. As business formats pivot in light of the pandemic, we need to consider new people management styles and policies. Normalising multiple breaks in the day can provide the much needed flexibility to people. Striking out unnecessary meetings can enable better time management. Rejigging work timings for those who need can bring empowerment. In addition, a timely and transparent top-down communication about important matters can instill a sense of safety and trust.