Raj, who is currently based in New Delhi, India, has over 2 decades of corporate experience. He has held leadership positions in leading global organizations, while nurturing his interest in mindfulness and well-being. He is an author of the book titled – “Freedom from fetters by taking actions in the playground”.
Below are the excerpts from our chat with him.
Raj, we would like to start by understanding what is Wellbeing and Mindfulness?
Wellbeing, while most people misunderstand it to be more of a mental and physical health indicator. It is how a person experiences life (quality of life). Key elements of wellbeing include mental, emotional, spiritual, environmental, career, social and financial atributes. Drawing through my own personal observation, I believe that people who learn how to control their MES (Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual aspects) can deal with mess in their lives effectively. Which is why I've chosen "Mindfulness" as the cornerstone for most of my initiatives for wellbeing. However, each of these components are closely interrelated.
Well, now we know what Wellbeing is. May we request you to share what is Mindfulness and why do you say that it is the foundational element of wellbeing?
If we compare last 50 years with the life in general before 1960, people are more educated than before, racism has decreased, we have more rights than before, wars are almost nonexistent,child mortality has reduced, huge improvements are witnessed in area of health care. There is more wealth in the world (World GDP in 1960 was 1.3 trillion USD, 84 trillion USD).
Despite huge financial success at least in terms of world GDP growth why is it that depression and anxiety are on exponential rise? Drug consumption has increased multifold, relationships are failing more than ever before, suicides are on the rise, over all life satisfaction has fallen down and stress levels have gone up. It is so because we have always tried to fix outside environment, while our inner economy is in mess. We must fix our internal empire (mind body soul) .This expanded awareness is what I refer to mindfulness. Therefore, I believe that Mindfulness is foundation of Wellbeing!
You have been engaged with organizations globally to promote Mindfulness as a key driver for employee wellbeing. How do organizations and employees benefit from Mindfulness interventions?
Let me give you an analogy. For a programmer to write a good program, he/she would need a good hardware, software, and power supply. If any one of these enablers is missing, a programmer will never be able to execute a program. Likewise, if we must write an effective program of our life (which consists of dimensions like successful career, financial independence, relationships, joyful living, health), we need to rely on three enablers – Hardware (our physical body), Software (our mind) and Power (our energy). After regular intervals, we upgrade operating systems and hardware to make computers more efficient, likewise we must upgrade old mental models, keep our physical bodies in shape and enhance our energies. Mindfulness helps us just do that – upgrading ourselves!
Let me briefly mention the benefits of Mindfulness in all areas of our life – Health, career, leadership, relationships, self-development, and management.
1. Numerous studies have proven that Mindfulness helps manage chronic pain, improves psychological wellbeing, gives support to recovery process; reduces cognitive decline, lowers stress, anxiety, depression, improves immunity, increases enzyme activity that guards cell acing, reduces risk of inflammatory diseases
2.In one of USA’s conglomerates with annual revenues of more than 60 Billion dollars, 50000 employees participated in mindfulness based interventions resulting in 28% reduction in stress levels, 20% improvement in sleep quality, healthcare claims were down by 7.3%, productivity improvements resulting in savings of USD 3000 per employee per year. It became such a massive success that the company introduced a new role of Chief Mindfulness Officer
3. As per one of the Harvard University studies, 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction program was found to increase cortical thickness of hippocampus, an area of our brain that activates memory and learning glands.
4. Another Boston University study found that mindfulness practices shrunk, amygdala, that part of our brain that acts as fear and anxiety center, thereby making the participants less prone to stress and anxiety
5. It has also been found out the mindfulness-based stress reduction programs activate prefrontal Cortex there by improving like skills such as empathy, insight, intuition, planning, decision making, problem solving, attention, higher level thinking, emotional intelligence – all of which are very important for being effective.
6. As per one of the studies done at Cornell University, companies that approach wellbeing and productivity programs as their business strategy achieved better financial outcomes with higher total returns to the shareholders and revenue per employee.
It's amazing to know the benefits of Mindfulness. What are the other key initiatives that organizations can take to improve employee wellbeing?
First and foremost, employee wellbeing must be in the company DNA. Wellbeing can be branched out to some of the following important areas, each one of them is a huge component itself.
- Purpose and valued driven leadership
- Fair and equitable compensation
- Fair workload distribution – Burn out is one of the biggest contributors in disrupting employee wellbeing
- Diversity and Inclusion
- Psychological Safety and workplace safety
- Eliminate Micromanagement – Situational leadership needs to be encouraged, those who micro-manage may have a false sense of being in control, though in reality they spread toxicity
- Employee engagement - not referring to pizza parties, or summer outing but involving employees in problem solving and decision-making process
- Transparency and Trust
- Mindfulness based stress reduction programs – these programs will not work if and only if above mentioned areas are not in place
Disclaimer: Views expressed by Raj are his own and based on the research work that he has done. The views do not represent and other individual or company.