People who identify as minorities face unique workplace stressors, and it can be difficult to know how to create a more inclusive, mindful workplace. The numbers around this reality are clear: a University College of London study showed that minority groups are experiencing higher levels of depression and anxiety following national lockdowns, while McKinsey reports burnout rates amongst female employees are 10% higher than before the pandemic.
These numbers emphasize the importance of diversity and inclusion strategies within the workplace. Mindfulness can play a key part in these strategies, but before we discuss how, it’s important to highlight what these terms mean.
Diversity is ‘who’s in the room,’ whereas inclusion is ‘who has influence in the room.’ While these terms are often used interchangeably, they are distinct. A conscious practice of being present in business settings can help us to identify the difference and ensure that both diversity and inclusion are present ‘in the room.’
First, it’s useful to highlight the behaviors that can lead to this increased stress. Being aware of the stressors that can impact women, people of color, LGBTQ+ and people with disabilities, for instance, is the first step on the path to removing those stressors and creating a more diverse and inclusive environment.
The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) lists 12 different behaviors that can adversely impact minorities in the workplace, including:
Not all of these examples are at the extreme end of the spectrum; many might be unconscious or unintended, but all can add to the difficulty faced by certain groups in business settings. Unconscious is the key word here because it highlights the importance of maintaining a conscious work culture.
There are also other influences which cut across demographics to impact everyone in the workplace, such as work/life balance, lack of engagement or external events (the pandemic being a prime example). So how can employers address these issues in a way that supports everyone in the workplace inclusively?
What do we mean when we talk about workplace mindfulness?
When we are fully present and engaged with what’s going on in the moment, that’s mindfulness. By practicing mindfulness, we’re learning how to be aware of our thoughts and feelings without distraction or judgment. At work, mindfulness can help everyone perform their best by improving focus and reducing stress.
A Springer research report titled ‘How Generative Mindfulness Can Contribute to Inclusive Workplaces’, published in December 2021, posits that ‘mindfulness can be a core contributor in creating communities and societies where people feel sufficiently at home with themselves, their beliefs, and their traditions so that they can live and work alongside people from very different cultures.’
The report goes on to describe how humanistic management is key to building mindfulness into the fabric of organizations. The benefits of this are well established; a Gallup study going as far back as 2017 found that a business with more engaged employees can outperform others by more than 200%.
But mindfulness can also help to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace because it helps to generate empathy, opening people up to the perspectives of others and establishing an environment in which people feel comfortable expressing themselves.
With the organizational (and personal) benefits of mindfulness and inclusion being well-known, how can workplace leaders build a culture that supports mindful inclusivity?
There are 5 key ways HR leaders and managers can help build a healthy work culture that supports broader diversity and inclusion strategies:
At its core, culture is the attitudes and behaviors that shape the way an organization does things. Most companies probably have some established values to start from, but here are a few pillars of mindfulness they can add to the list:
A culture of mindfulness will only take root if employees can see it in action. Leaders are the organization’s role models for mindfulness. This presents an opportunity to incorporate the company’s values into their decision-making and communications. By showing employees that they are dedicated to the well-being of every individual, and by starting the conversations around diversity and inclusion themselves, they can help to create purpose by giving everyone a role in making a culture of mindfulness successful.
Everyone needs to be invited to have a role in the development of a mindful, diverse and inclusive work culture. To create an authentic shift in an organization’s behavior, leaders can’t be the gatekeepers. By its very nature, culture requires a level of commitment from everyone. That means leaders advocating for their teams, seeking feedback from their reports, and addressing needs in a timely manner. One of the greatest barriers to success is treating culture as a mandate instead of a dialogue that builds mutual trust.
Leaders need to help everyone embody a new culture with access to explicit guidelines and policies, ongoing education, skill-building, and advocates they can trust. When expectations are clarified and teams given the tools to meet them, everyone can succeed together.
Culture isn’t a set of rules for employees to follow, it’s a way of creating a community of people with shared values. As in any great community, it’s better when everyone is included and valued.
Responsibility for building and maintaining a mindful culture should be shared across the whole organization by finding ways to practice together. It may be as simple as a one-minute meditation before meetings start or habits that are completely unique to your organization.
Lasting culture change doesn’t happen from the top down or the bottom up. It happens when everyone has a role to play in making the workplace a great place to be, and when everyone’s role is valued.
If you need a helping hand in building an inclusive and diverse strategy in the workplace, speak to our friendly Headspace team today, or click here to read more about mindful cultures.