The Importance of Mindfulness in Agile Workplaces

The Importance of Mindfulness in Agile Workplaces
Photo by Chandler Cruttenden / Unsplash

Agility has become the buzzword in the modern workplace. Processes, strategies, and employee mindsets need to be flexible and adaptable to rapid change. However, the pressure to adapt can be overwhelming if we focus solely on speed. Therefore, a balance between agility and deceleration is critical to achieving the best results. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the future upon us, exposing us to an uncertain and complex world where our familiar ways of working seem like relics of the past. To manage the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) world, agility has become essential. In this blog post, we will explore how agility can be combined with mindfulness to create a healthier and more effective work environment.

The Agile Hype

Agility has become the new messiah that can lead us through crises. Many companies have trained their managers to be agile, optimized their processes using agility, and encouraged their employees to adopt an agile mindset. However, like any new hype, the expectations placed on agility may have reached their peak, and the limitations of the new panacea are becoming apparent. If agility is seen simply as a requirement to be flexible, adaptable, and decisive at all times, it can be overwhelming. The well-intentioned call to "be more agile" can be perceived as a burden rather than a valuable resource, leading to increased stress and burnout.

Mindfulness and Agile Workplaces [1]

Is slowed agility an oxymoron? If agility is equated with continuous and responsive adaptation, then yes. But if we understand agility as the ability to break free from limiting thought patterns and negative emotions, and to make decisions with openness and clarity, then no. The desired adaptability of employees is only possible if we consciously slow down, become mindful of ourselves and our surroundings, and use mindfulness to create a balance between agility and deceleration.

Mindfulness is not just a performance enhancer or a clever way to quickly solve all problems. It is a way to step back from the relentless pursuit of "more, faster, better. It is the ability to stop and become aware of our own actions, thoughts, and feelings. Emotional agility is a more modern aspect of mindfulness, coined by psychologist Susan David in her book Emotional Agility (2016)[2]. David presents a sound, scientifically proven explanation of why the ability to manage our thoughts and feelings is essential for business success, especially in our rapidly changing world. Emotional agility helps reduce stress, minimize mistakes, and improve performance and innovation.

Rana and Bock's research shows that a 15-minute daily online mindfulness course for four weeks leads to significant improvements in core mindfulness skills and reduced stress levels.

In summary, to succeed in an agile workplace, we need to combine agility with mindfulness. Mindfulness allows us to slow down and become aware of ourselves and our surroundings, which is necessary for agile decision making. Emotional agility helps reduce stress, minimize mistakes, and improve performance and innovation. Mindfulness and emotional agility can help create a healthier and more effective work environment.

For the practice - How to run a Mindful shower [3]

  1. Start by slowing down your bodily movements as you prepare to shower. This means removing your clothes slowly and carefully.
  2. Normally, I would recommend leaving electronic devices outside, but you may find that you would like soothing music in the background. Test the optimal volume beforehand. I would still recommend leaving the device outside the showering area, even if your device is water-resistant, so your main focus is the shower. (This doesn't mean you can't dance in the shower).
  3. Hear the sounds of your hand turning on the faucet, as well as sounds the nozzle makes right before it ejects its first spurts of water.
  4. Notice the luxury of adjusting the water temperature to your preference. Then, place your attention on the warm water relaxing, softening, and warming your muscles (a natural de-tenser!).
  5. As you apply shampoo and conditioner, do so slowly, with care. Notice how it feels on your hair. Good massage, right? Then, let the lather accumulate for a moment before you rinse it out.
  6. As you apply soap to your body, do so slowly, with care. Notice how it feels on your skin. Good self-massage, right? Then let the soap accumulate for a moment before you rinse it.
  7. Before finishing, leave time for mindful towel-drying.
  8. Apply lotions and creams if you'd like. Notice and enjoy how it feels on your now clean skin.
  9. Check your experience; how did it change your time in the shower, and the rest of the day?

You can modify these steps to your preference. Even if you're still rushed at certain inevitable times such as the morning, you can still do this. Mindful showering doesn't need to take much extra time. Mindfulness is ultimately about the quality of attention, not the amount of time.

  1. Ebner, M. (2023). Die agile Arbeitswelt braucht
    Achtsamkeit. Wirtschaftspsychologie aktuell 1|2023, 8-13 ↩︎

  2. David, S. (2016). Emotional agility: get unstuck, embrace change, and thrive in work and life (1. Aufl.). London: Penguin Life. ↩︎

  3. Linder, J. (2019). Increasing Daily Mindfulness: Starting in the Shower. ↩︎