The best workplace mindfulness programs at places like Google, LinkedIn, and BlackRock were started by employees with mindfulness practices, not carted in from HR. In other words, don’t wait for your company to bring mindfulness to you — bring mindfulness to your company by starting a mindful community. A workplace mindfulness community can take many forms: a meditation group, a mindfulness book club, best practice sharing, or even a mindful eating lunch group. The type and size of community will differ from company to company, however, the starting points remain the same. Explore these five steps for building a mindful community within your organization:
Define the purpose and desired outcome
Get clear why you want to create this community and what you hope to accomplish. For example, you might want to start a community to help people manage stress, or you might want to help build a culture of awareness by teaching people to find comfort in stillness, or you may want to connect with others who already practice mindfulness and share ideas.
Find a champion
A champion is a person in a senior role (or someone with influence) inside the company who can help you promote the group and deal with any potential legal or human resource issues. Most large companies have a structure to support affinity groups and clubs, as well as process to get the word out to employees. If you are at a smaller organization then you’ll need to work with your champion on the best way to establish and promote the group. Remember to keep this person in the loop with any challenges you are facing so they can help remove roadblocks as well as support the cause.
Find a qualified resource
Depending on your purpose and desired outcome, the qualified resource might be you, a trained mindfulness teacher, or an online resource. If your goal is to create community to discuss applying mindfulness tools at work, any person with a practice can host a discussion and pick a different topic each week. If you want to create a practice community, seek out an employee who many already be trained as a teacher or has a long-time personal practice and is willing lead a group meditation. If no employee can be found, the International Mindfulness Teachers Association and other directories will list teachers in your area. Additionally, there are many online resources and apps with thousands of free meditations you can use. Remember to preview the teachers to ensure the content is in alignment with your goals and with any diversity and inclusion policies at your company.
It’s likely no one will show up for the first few meetings — be prepared to stay in the room and practice as if the room is full.
Be consistent with the offering
Consistency is key to building community. Be consistent in how and where you promote the community. Meet at the same time and place and offer a consistent format — it will help people plan as well as build trust that the community will be a reliable resource. A note about place: likely your group will meet in a conference room of some type. If possible, move the chairs to avoid sitting around the table. If it’s not possible, then work with the conditions available — Having the meeting is more important than the room the meeting is hosted in.
Be realistic & patient
Building a mindfulness community will take time, as in many months. It’s likely no one will show up for the first few meetings — be prepared to stay in the room and practice as if the room is full. Likely people will come late and leave early, especially if hosting during traditional works hours, so make it part of the practice to meet people where they are at (as long as it’s not too disruptive to the rest of the group.) Most important, be open to the needs of the group and be willing to shift and experiment as necessary.