MAKE A DIFFERENCE | workplace culture / mental health / wellbeing

Mindful Workplace Community: Isolation vs Connection

In 2015 I was invited to my first gathering of workplace mindfulness champions. I had no idea what to expect and was full of questions. I wanted to bring mindfulness into my workplace (then the UK’s Ministry of Justice) but didn’t have a clue about how to do it. I also felt like I was the only person in a regular job that knew anything about mindfulness!

I was wrong.

Communities change lives

In that first meeting, I felt a sense of camaraderie, shared purpose and direction. I learnt about other people’s endeavours in the UK’s Health Service, EY, The Prison Service and elsewhere. I realised not only was I not alone; I wasn’t even unusual. There were others like me trying to bring mindfulness to their colleagues and friends at work, and in so many walks of very conventional life.

This realisation and this network gave me the confidence to start my first drop-in ‘mindfulness’ session, once a week in the Ministry of Justice, with a friend I met through that network. I believe that seven years later, the drop-in session is still going strong. I started talking about mindfulness to my colleagues and teams and by 2018 I was able to integrate mindfulness into the design of the Programme I was directing and wrote a book on the basis of what I learned from that experience.

The power of community 

Mine is not a unique story. A dear friend was so frustrated by the challenges of bringing mindfulness to the multinational she was working for that she considered quitting, not only the mindfulness programme she had started, but her job too. By her own account it was the support of the community of mindfulness champions that gave her the strength to continue. The network she had created at the multinational now consists of thousands of people around the world practicing mindfulness.

Launching The Mindful Workplace Community (MWC)

To ensure that this support was available to all, the Group of Champions that had helped myself and my friend launched as The Mindful Workplace Community in 2019. The Mindful Workplace Community was established by the Mindfulness Initiative, the charity that emerged from the work of the UK Parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Mindfulness

In just one year, and despite the pandemic, The Community has grown to have corporate members including HSBC, EY, Dentons, Leeds Building Society, Roche and Sionic, and to have a truly international membership with individual members spread from Poland to the West Coast of the US and Scandinavia to Australia.  

How can it help you?

The Community offers a webinar programme with an extraordinary range of speakers including leading psychologists, authors, researchers and thought leaders. This library of insight is available to all members. This year the Community is following several themes, in particular, our festival of inclusion, looking at how the mindful workplace can become truly inclusive. We are also exploring techniques and tools to build mindful communities in workplaces. 

It also has a rich range of resources to support people who are trying to establish their mindfulness network at work, including practical materials like tools and templates, feedback forms and marketing suggestions. As well as a single stop for research in the field, pulling together sources of information about the subject.

But above all, the Mindful Workplace Community offers a place to meet, learn from, be inspired and inspire, fellow workplace mindfulness champions. Some of our organisations are using our programme of events as a way of providing their internal champions network with the continuous personal development, they are keen to offer. 

Why now?

This Community means so much to our members (including me).  During this extraordinary year the sense of isolation has been present for many. But being part of the Community has meant that I have had a connection with people facing similar professional challenges throughout the pandemic. As it looks like we are starting to emerge at different stages around the world, our international community is able to continue to support each other, share ideas and best practices on how to support mindfulness in the workplace as we step into an unknown future.  

Perhaps the best way to explain this is to let one of our members explain.

‘At the time of finding The Mindfulness Workplace Community I was in a bad way. In the throes of complex PTSD and initially shielded, I was feeling isolated and extremely anxious. The MWC gave me a place where I felt heard and seen. It gave me a community in which I felt valued and supported by likeminded individuals. This dramatically improved my self-confidence which allowed me to continue in my junior doctor role and become involved in healthcare workers’ wellbeing. I am not just incredibly grateful to the MWC, I am honoured to be counted among them.’ [Dr Georgina Budd, MWC Member. Dr Georgina Budd@mymindonwheels].

Looking forward to a post-pandemic world

Mindfulness has had a huge amount of publicity over the past 12 months and many organisations have either tried to bring in elements of mindfulness to their business, or invested greater resources into their existing programmes. 

This is potentially great news for the wellbeing of teams across the world. But it can be a baffling enterprise to navigate the ways in which we might try and bring mindfulness to our particular work setting. In the Mindful Workplace Community, you can meet people who are willing and able to share their experience, their successes and failures from working in SMEs to large multi-nationals. 

It can be a tough gig

Despite the increased attention given to mindfulness in the media and by some organisations, in some environments, mindfulness is still relatively new and suggests real culture change. Being the person bringing mindfulness to the workplace can be a tough gig. It can feel isolating, as it was for me and my friend all those years ago. Being connected, being part of a community can help you remember that you are not alone in this work. Thousands and thousands of individuals are learning about the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace every day and you can connect with the people who are involved in your field.

Even for the experienced

And for those of us who have been bringing mindfulness to the workplace for a while, the opportunity to continue to learn, to share latest thinking and occasionally be able to share some personal insights brings a great sense of connection.

You’d be welcome

If this sounds like it may be of interest and help to you; whether you are a new mindfulness champion, as I was in 2015, a senior leader inspiring the introduction of mindfulness to your multinational, a workplace mindfulness trainer, or anything in-between, you are welcome in The Mindful Workplace Community.

I hope to meet you there soon

About Andrew McNeill

Andrew McNeill is an author, leadership consultant and mindfulness teacher. Following 25 years in senior leadership (including as lead of the UK Government on assurance for the Olympic and Paralympic Torches (London 2012), Head of Programme Assurance (Ministry of Justice) and Programme Director (Building Safety Programme)) he published ‘Organisation Mindfulness – a how to guide’ in 2019. Andrew is now the Development Director of the Mindful Workplace Community and Co-Director of BAMBA (the UK’s professional body for mindfulness teachers). Andrew continues to provide leadership consultancy (working on major projects and programmes) and brings mindfulness to workplace teams and leaders.

 

In 2015 I was invited to my first meeting of a gathering of workplace mindfulness champions. I had no idea what to expect and was mainly full of questions. I was wanting to bring mindfulness into my workplace (then the UK’s Ministry of Justice) but didn’t have a clue about how to do it. I also felt like I was the only person in a regular job, that knew anything about mindfulness!

I was wrong.

Communities change lives

In that first meeting I felt a sense of camaraderie, shared purpose and direction. I learnt about other people’s endeavours in the UK’s Heath Service, EY, The Prison Service and elsewhere. I realised not only was I not alone; I wasn’t even unusual. There were others like me trying to bring mindfulness to their colleagues and friends, in work, and in so many walks of very conventional life.

This realisation and this network gave me the confidence to start my first drop-in ‘mindfulness’ session, once a week in the Ministry of Justice, with a friend I met through that network. I believe that seven years later, that session is still going strong. I started talking about mindfulness to my colleagues and teams and by 2018 I was able to integrate mindfulness into the design of the Programme I was directing and wrote a book on the basis of what I learned in that experience.

The power of community 

Mine is not a unique story. A dear friend of mine was so frustrated by the challenges of bringing mindfulness to the multi-national she was working for that she was considering quitting, not only the mindfulness programme she had started, but her job too. By her own account it was the support of the community of mindfulness champions that gave her the strength to continue. Her network now consists of thousands of people around the world practicing mindfulness.

Launching the Mindful Workplace Community (MWC)

To ensure that this support was available to all, the Group of Champions that had helped myself and my friend was launched as the Mindful Workplace Community in 2019. It was established by the Mindfulness Initiative, the charity that emerged from the work of the UK Parliament’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Mindfulness. 

In just one year, during the pandemic, The Community has grown to have corporate members including HSBC, EY, Dentons, Leeds Building Society, Roche and Sionic and to have a truly international membership with individual members from Poland to the West Coast of the US and Scandinavia to Australia.  

How can it help you?

The Community offers a webinar programme with an extraordinary range of speakers including leading psychologists, authors, researchers and thought leaders. This library of insight is available to all members. This year the Community is following several themes, in particular, our festival of inclusion, looking at how the mindful workplace can become truly inclusive. We are also exploring techniques and tools to build mindful communities in workplaces. 

It also has a rich range of resources to support people who are trying to establish their mindfulness network at work, including practical materials like tools and templates, feedback forms and marketing suggestions. As well as a single stop for research in the field, pulling together sources of information about the subject.

But above all, the Mindful Workplace Community offers a place to meet, learn from, be inspired and inspire, fellow workplace mindfulness champions. Some of our organisations are using our programme of events as a way of providing their internal champions network with the continuous personal development, they are keen to offer. 

Why now?

This Community means so much to our members (including me).  During this extraordinary year the sense of isolation has been present for many. But being part of the Community has meant that I have had a connection with people facing similar professional challenges to me throughout the pandemic. As it looks like we are starting to emerge at different stages around the world, our international community is able to continue to support each other and share ideas and best practice on how to support mindfulness in the workplace as we emerge. 

Perhaps the best way to explain this is to let one of our other members explain.

‘At the time of finding The Mindfulness Workplace Community I was in a bad way. In the throes of complex PTSD and initially shielded, I was feeling isolated and extremely anxious. The MWC gave me a place where I felt heard and seen. It gave me a community in which I felt valued and supported by likeminded individuals. This dramatically improved my self-confidence which allowed me to continue in my junior doctor role and become involved in healthcare workers’ wellbeing. I am not just incredibly grateful to the MWC, I am honoured to be counted among them.’ [Dr Georgina Budd, MWC Member. Dr Georgina Budd@mymindonwheels].

Looking forward to a post-pandemic world

Mindfulness has had a huge amount of publicity over the past 12 months and many organisations have either tried to bring in elements of mindfulness to their business, or invested greater resources into their existing programmes. 

This is potentially great news for the wellbeing of teams across the world. But it can be a baffling enterprise to navigate the ways in which we might try and bring mindfulness to our particular work setting. In the Mindful Workplace Community, you can meet people who are willing and able to share their experience, their successes and failure from working in SMEs to large multi-nationals. 

It can be a tough gig

Despite the increased attention given to mindfulness in the media and by some organisations, in some environments, mindfulness is still relatively new and suggests real culture change. So being the person bringing mindfulness to the workplace can be a tough gig. It can feel isolating, as it was for me and my friend all those years ago. So being connected, being part of a community can help you remember that you are not alone in this. Thousands and thousands of individuals are learning about the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace every day and you can connect with the people who are involved in your field.

Even for the experienced

And for those of us who have been bringing mindfulness to the workplace for a while, the opportunity to continue to learn, to share latest thinking and occasionally be able to share some personal insights brings a great sense of connection.

You’d be welcome

If this sounds like it may be of interest and help to you; whether you are a new mindfulness champion, as I was in 2015, a senior leader inspiring the introduction of mindfulness to your multinational, a workplace mindfulness trainer, or anything in-between, you would be welcome in the Mindful Workplace Community.

I hope to meet you there soon

About the author

Andrew McNeill is an author, leadership consultant and mindfulness teacher. Following 25 years in senior leadership (including as lead of the UK Government on assurance for the Olympic and Paralympic Torches (London 2012), Head of Programme Assurance (Ministry of Justice) and Programme Director (Building Safety Programme)) he published ‘Organisation Mindfulness – a how to guide’ in 2019. Andrew is now the Development Director of the Mindful Workplace Community and Co-Director of BAMBA (the UK’s professional body for mindfulness teachers). Andrew continues to provide leadership consultancy (working on major projects and programmes) and brings mindfulness to workplace teams and leaders.