Letting go of stress
Since the onset of the pandemic, already stressful lives have become even more stressful: uncertainty, increased workloads, communication issues and new processes combined with nagging doubts about family members and the risk of infection, has put pressure on managers and their teams alike – often resulting in mental exhaustion, dissatisfaction and low productivity.
"The world has become more stressful than ever before. During difficult times, managers often want to look after their staff. And, consequently, take on more responsibility for their staff’s well-being. I might even say that COVID-19 has triggered the breakthrough of mindfulness at our company."
Head of Corporate Culture
Mindfulness has taken off with the business world
“Neuroscience shows that mindfulness directly improves mental awareness,” says Liane Stephan, executive director of Awaris.
Awaris specializes in mindfulness training and organizational development. Companies that seek its help want to prepare their employees for increasingly complex and information heavy workings environments. This can, for example, be achieved thanks to:
- improved stress management: Mindfulness-based stress reduction developed by U.S. medical professor Jon Kabat-Zinn is used in occupational health management to deal with the pathogenic consequences of chronic stress.
- improved change management: Mindfulness training enables managers and their teams to react pragmatically to unpredictable situations.
How mindfulness works in practice
Consciously refocusing your attention is a core component of mindfulness. This is mostly achieved by focusing your attention on a specific object such as the breath, the coming and going of thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations. Practicing mindfulness in this way, changes areas of the brain – for example, the brain area responsible for anxiety shrinks while the one responsible for memory grows. The main benefits of regular practicing are:
- improved attention span,
- less prone to mistakes,
- decreased perception of stress,
- improved self-efficiency,
- heightened sense of joy, satisfaction, and happiness.
A business unit leads the way to better collaboration
Michael Schäfer was one of the participants in LANXESS’ mindfulness workshops. The head of the Material Protection Products (MPP) business unit was so convinced of the benefits of the classes that in 2019 he rolled out the Mindful@MPP program globally throughout LANXESS, production plants included.
“Mindfulness training promotes safety since it helps staff to focus better. What is more, only happy, satisfied employees do good work. Mindfulness training supports this sense of well-being, and, in turn, fosters respectful interaction, a good working atmosphere and, ultimately, lower rates of absenteeism.”
Head of the Material Protection Products business unit
The initial roll-out has already gone down well, with training courses being well received in North America, Germany, Singapore, and Shanghai. Mindfulness is part of the leadership and team style in many areas of the business unit. But, unfortunately, the pandemic halted plans to offer mindfulness training to even more MPP employees in a second rollout phase. However, plans are to continue as soon as it is safe to hold real-life classes again.
Mindfulness – something for wimps?!
“It’s a bit too new agey for me...” – where mindfulness is concerned, Monique Berens still encounters preconceived ideas. “I was very skeptical about mindfulness at first,” says Philipp Borgs, Manager M&A Projects in the Material Protection Products Business Unit. But despite being initially reticent about the training, the benefits quickly became apparent to the manager: “I learned to approach tasks with more concentration and awareness and not to get distracted immediately. You just can't work on three or four things at the same time.”
Monique Berens and Liane Stephan often encounter other stereotypes, too:
- Mindfulness is spiritual: “Spirituality does not play the slightest role in the training,” says Liane Stephan, who teaches mindfulness from a neuroscience perspective. What is more, practical exercises anchor the mindfulness experiences in the memory and in everyday life.
- Mindfulness is for wimps: On the contrary, it is highly beneficial for managers, who need to be attentive and empathetic to their counterparts in order to lead, motivate and identify sustainable solutions.
- Mindfulness is an emotional crutch for low performers: Information overload and multitasking are typical phenomena of the modern working world. Chronic stress reduces everyone's performance in the long run.
Mindfulness during the pandemic: digital classes
A free online program to mindfulness is available to all LANXESS employees worldwide. In addition to digital training modules, Monique Berens offers 60-minute virtual trainings in German and English. Local offerings in Spanish, French, and Portuguese, for Brazilian sites, are also available.
Managers have continually reached out to Monique Berens during the pandemic: They want to do something for their staff to prevent them from succumbing to negative stress.