What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is about being present and having an awareness of what’s going on around us and in our minds. Sometimes the best way to understand mindfulness is thinking about mindlessness, this is where you’re running on autopilot, not paying attention to what is happening around you, rushing from one thing to the next and not being aware of the increasing feeling of pressure and stress.
Benefits of Mindfulness?
- Your attention increases. Your mind will wander less and you’ll be able to concentrate for longer periods of time
- You are more aware of what’s going on around you and in your head. It means you are less likely to get carried away by unhelpful thoughts and more aware of how other people are feeling
You start to act differently. When the pressure is on, you are less reactive and able to handle what’s happening around you
Why did Xero introduce Mindfulness?
In late 2016 we lost some of our Xeros in tragic circumstances, leading to a greater focus on how we look after the mental health of our Xeros. Xero also has a high pace, high change working environment and some of our lowest engagement scores also relate to mental wellbeing, such as being overwhelmed, high workloads and stress. One of our values is also #human and one of our strategic objectives is to improve the mental wellbeing of our employees. And so……
- We introduced Thrive, focusing on managing stress and building resilience
- Xero created ‘The Xero Memorial Scholarship’ to inspire and challenge our people to reach their potential through awesome experiences run by Outward Bound
- In late 2017 we piloted Mindfulness
- In 2018 we launched an 8 week scientific based programmed called High Performing Minds
How does it help our Xeros?
- Practical techniques to better manage stress
- Enhanced communication outcomes
- Improved levels of attention and focus
- Greater levels of problem solving
- Increased sense of connection, meaning and purpose at work
- Higher levels of personal resilience
- Increased self awareness and awareness of others
All of this leads to increases in engagement, satisfaction, productivity and retention.
To date, we have had around 150 employees attend our 8 week high performing minds program, with another 50 currently taking part or scheduled to. All participants are asked the same questions, before and after the course, as well as six months later. Results have shown sustained increases in resilience between 15% and 25%, sustained reductions in stress of between 15% and 20% and huge increases in employees’ ability to focus their attention, prioritise their work and optimise their productivity.
Our mindfulness strategy
Xero has been very deliberate in building a mindfulness strategy in order to see long term, sustained results. It’s based on the following building blocks;
- Engage – we aim to give employees a conceptual understanding of mindfulness, including de-mystifying it. Our offices utilise ‘activity based working’ and so our working environment provides quiet spaces, a wellbeing room and private meeting rooms, where employees can practice mindfulness. We have weekly drop in sessions, where employees can come and practice mindfulness together. We have information on our intranet, including suggested books, videos, articles and apps. Our EAP provider has an app, which has mindfulness resources on it. We also produce posters, stickers and cue cards.
- Educate – we aim to give employees experiential knowledge, primarily through a 1 hour introductory session that is offered to all employees every six months. It covers the neuroscience behind mindfulness and the link to wellbeing, our strategy and values. We give employees hands on practice, the ability to share experiences and insights, practical tips, techniques and resources
- Train – primarily through our 8 week high performing minds program, we train employees on how to use mindfulness practices in their life and how to integrate it into their life. Tit is highly experiential and personal and involves instruction and coaching using exercises and practice, as well as self reflection and pair and group work exploring experiences.
- Teach – we have created a ‘level 2’ course through which we have trained 8 mindfulness champions. Through this, our champions deepen and strengthen their practice and are able to confidently discuss mindfulness. They have established a community and ongoing support for employees and are responsible for launching and promoting initiatives. They introduce and teach mindfulness to others.
Research has shown that 40% of engagement is accounted for by leadership and that over 30% of employee’s mental health is accounted for by mindful leadership.
We are looking to incorporate mindful practices into our leadership development, such as empowering others to shine (servant leadership) and cultivating beginner’s mindset (failing and learning).