Saturday 19 October 2019

Mind over matter is the key to happiness in workplace

Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

'Contemplation is the new caffeine' – thus ran the headline in a recent piece in Wired magazine in which the tech journal observed a growing trend amongst large US corporations for incorporating mindfulness, meditation and creative thought into their battle plan for tackling rising workplace stress.

Google has lead the charge recently with a series of 'mindful lunches' and other companies have followed suit. The co-founders of Twitter and Facebook have made contemplative practices key components of their office cultures, holding regular in-office meditation sessions and arranging for work routines that maximise mindfulness.

Some 1,700 people came to a meditation conference held in San Francisco in February, with top executives from LinkedIn, Cisco, and Ford featured among the headlining participants.

So in some ways the timing could not be better for award-winning poet and psychotherapist Christina Reihill to launch her new initiative into the corporate market here in Ireland. 'Soul Burgers' won the prestigious Allianz/Tile Style Business To Arts Bursary Award and is the latest incarnation of a project that has already been adapted for musical performances, stage productions and urban art productions.

Reihill – the daughter of Tedcastles tycoon John Reihill who died earlier this year – describes it as "a one-hour mindfulness and well-being seminar to address issues of awareness, personal responsibility, anxiety and problems of addiction, in a unique, gentle and thought-provoking way".

The seminar, which has been designed specifically with Irish businesses in mind, takes the form of a conversation between Reihill, her colleague Sean Quin and James Mooney – the latter is the project's artistic director and a veteran of the corporate world (his background is with blue chip advertising companies) – and "allows audiences to listen to a deeply personal journey of breakdown to breakthrough without having to reveal themselves and their issues (in conjunction) with the themes discussed".

In this way Reihill, Quin and Mooney hope to tap into the therapeutic and cathartic Irish tradition of storytelling: "The finest educational tool of all."

The conversation they have follows from Reihill's acclaimed poetry, which in turn took its inspiration from her own long and successful battle with alcohol and drug addiction following a stint in rehab and leaving a glamorous life in London, where she worked for Vogue magazine.

She believes that everyone experiences "dark nights of the soul", but corporate cultures often provide no "release valve" for stressed workers, who are often fearful of showing weakness or appearing less than capable.

The challenge for the Soul Burgers initiative was to protect these individuals. "Who wants to air their dirty laundry in front of their co-workers?" Reihill rhetorically asks, before adding that participation in the conversation is optional for those who take part in the seminar – the last 20 minutes of each presentation is devoted to time allowing audience questions.

"Too many HR departments deal with people as products and then wonder why productivity, motivation, change and false expectations remain unresolved", Reihill tells the Sunday Independent. These issues need a more subtle and soulful approach.

The latest research from America backs up the idea that mindfulness increases workplace happiness, productivity and emotional intelligence. And if Reihill and her team have anything to do with it, Dublin-based corporations will be right on trend.

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Irish Independent

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