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Employee Engagement: Connecting and disconnecting through mindfulness

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During a time when gyms and team sports aren’t readily accessible, the question of how to stay fit and healthy is a common one — especially at a sports company. However, it’s a good time for employers to re-examine the definition of fit and healthy. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t necessarily mean more exercise. In fact, it means slowing down and focussing on self-care. And more specifically, on mental self-care.

Burn-out is detrimental. Lack of work/life balance is detrimental. Mental overload is detrimental. And these have all become even more of a danger in a remote-working world, where it’s hard to draw a line between when the work day ends and begins. A survey by customer experience experts TELUS International confirms what we already know: 4 out of 5 workers find it hard to shut off in the evenings and 80% of people would prefer to work for a company that focusses on employees’ mental health.

"Healthy" competition

For most of us (and especially the ultra-competitive athletes at Infront), slowing down doesn’t always come naturally. As part of a recent five-week virtual fitness challenge, Infront employees across the globe were challenged to improve their lifestyle. A tailor-made app allowed employees to track minutes of exercise alongside minutes of mindfulness. We counted servings of fruits and vegetables, not calories. And thank-you-very-much, we received bonus points for writing a few words of daily gratitude. Participants were divided into teams, so naturally, the gamification element led to some healthy competition and team building, from CEO to trainee.

Staying present as a competitive advantage

Incorporating daily exercise wasn’t the real challenge here. Rather, the challenge came in prioritising 'staying present' and 'getting 8 hours of sleep' as highly as 'staying active'.

The results were impressive. After five weeks, 300+ employees logged 71,655 minutes of mindfulness; or nearly 50 days straight of no distractions and being purely present. Add to that 3,420 entries of gratitude. Within those gratitude statements, the top five words were: 1) friends, 2) family, 3) work, 4) sun and 5) run. Studies show that practicing gratitude for just 5 minutes a day can make you 25% happier. Yes, please.

As someone who likes being active, but isn’t particularly sporty, this challenge was a well-rounded change from the usual “no pain, no gain” fitness challenges. I didn’t always have time to exercise, but I always managed to find time for a quick 15 minutes of daily mindfulness. And yes, sometimes that was only in those final minutes of the day before falling asleep, but I still made a conscious effort to slow down and have some “me time”. The campaign was also a refreshing, guilt-removing confirmation that rest days are just as important as those intense training days. Sorry, I can’t get up early to run today, I need to focus on accumulating my sleep points.

While it started as a fun, team challenge, it had me thinking each day about the benefits of slowing down. Fitness is important, but we should also be prioritising mindfulness and gratitude as a competitive advantage – in both sports and in our careers. And even better if it wins us bragging rights amongst colleagues.

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