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Promoting a healthy work culture: insights from our new Mindful Culture podcast

The pandemic changed the game for the modern workforce. In theory, remote working offered more flexibility and better opportunities for a better work-life balance. In reality, it brought with it new challenges for the workforce. Studies found that during lockdown, remote workers largely worked longer hours and faced larger workloads than before the pandemic. Fast forward to 2022, and we see reports of increased workforce stress and burnout, which has led many people around the world to leave their jobs.

It's easy to pin the blame on the pandemic, but even pre-2020, notions of the digital nomad lifestyle — a phenomenon that’s grown in popularity over the past decade — were beginning to inextricably link work and home. Since then, a whole host of factors, including the development of new workplace technologies, have continued to blur the lines between home and work.

The result? There’s been a dramatic shift in the way people think about and carry out their work. Considering this, employers need to do more than simply facilitate a duty of care towards their staff. It’s more important than ever that they play their part in promoting a healthy and sustainable work culture.

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Challenging the norm in work cultures

Headspace for Work’s new Mindful Culture podcast takes a deep dive into what it takes to create a healthy, mindful work culture, and what different organizations are doing to challenge the norm. In episode one, podcast host Paula Keve speaks to special guest Mariangel Maldonado, Psychologist and Head of Wellbeing at Booking.com, about the power of mindful cultures for productivity — as well as the link between personal and professional development. It’s a conversation that offers invaluable insights for organizations looking to make the next step in their own well-being programs.

Paula and Mariangel reflect on the past two years and the increasing pressure workforces have been under. Anecdotally, we saw the pandemic heightening dissatisfaction among employees, which ultimately drove more people to leave their jobs. In many instances, employees haven’t been able to fully engage with their work because they don’t feel physically or mentally able to perform at their best.

In situations like this, mindfulness can be a powerful tool for workplaces seeking to meet the evolving needs of their employees. Workplace well-being and mindfulness empowers the workforce to feel present, engaged and aware of their thoughts and feelings without distraction or judgment. This in turn improves employee satisfaction and performance.

The workforce wants more from employers

Headspace for Work’s new report, Mindfulness and Work Culture of Tomorrow, revealed that “work/life balance” and “pressures from work” were in the top three greatest sources of stress for workers globally. While the impacts of overworking and stress on mental health are widely acknowledged, the physical effects are not often discussed. For example, stress can manifest itself in sleep disruption, along with more concerning health implications, such as high blood pressure and digestive problems. To address such issues, employers need to understand the cause.

As part of her role at Booking.com, Mariangel has helped to develop a rich array of programs to support mental health at work and cultivate a positive workplace culture. Her work has demonstrated new realities about changing priorities in the labor market. Not only are employees now seeking greater flexibility in their working lives, but they’re also looking for an employer that takes their mental well-being seriously.

Why now?

It’s not the case that hybrid working or remote working didn’t exist before the pandemic. The issue is that, almost overnight, everyone had to adapt to this new style of working, while very few were helped in acquiring the right skills to cope. Accepting that their home space was suddenly their workspace (not to mention their gym and social space) was a lot for employees to take on mentally. They also had to contend with the pressure to be “seen” — to counter the internal narrative many people have that they’re assumed to be “slacking off” because they’re not in the office. This pressure “to be seen” adds greatly to employees’ psychological drive to overperform — and overexert — in a bid to look like they’re “doing their job.”

There’s still stigma associated with mental health in the workplace, but the seeds are being planted for a better future. If you’re interested in hearing more about challenging these stigmas and the benefits of creating a healthy and mindful work culture, you can listen to Paula and Mariangel’s conversation – and the full series – here.

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