Things for organizations to try: Improving Free to be yourself

Supporting people to be themselves is important for happiness at work and motivation. It also frees up energy for other things and helps protect against mental exhaustion.

8 Free to be yourself - org

1. Practice social mindfulness

Mindfulness is known to reduce stress and anxiety and improve wellbeing. We recommend a Social Mindfulness approach because it integrates our sense of self with our work purpose. E.g. It can show us how through understanding ourselves and our emotions, we can regulate the mood of the group.

How to do it:

  • Train a core group of mindfulness champions - these could be leaders within the organization or members of staff valued for their community spirit at work.
  • Try to engage directly with the people you expect to be most skeptical.
  • To convince others, consider taking some before and after measures of stress, anxiety, happiness and productivity.

Case study

The insurance company Atena became a mindful organization after the CEO brought yoga and meditation to the workplace. Atena found that employees who took part in the mindfulness program had, on average, a 28% decrease in stress levels and 20% improvement in sleep quality. Productivity rose by an average of 62 minutes per week, and stock hit a record that was unseen before. Connecting mindfulness to business outcomes was seen as an important factor in the program's success.

2. Bursts and breaks

Working in short bursts with frequent breaks aids productivity, focus and flow, and reduces the risk of fatigue.

How to do it:

  • Share this research to help people understand the benefits of working in bursts: Julia Gifford suggests 52 minutes of work followed by a 17 minute break. James Levine suggests 15 minute bursts.
  • Be clear that everyone is different and work to break ratios will be different based on the individual, task and time of day.
  • Set a cultural expectation that people should break between bursts of work, when their brains and bodies need it.
  • Don't let people fall into the "too-tired-or-too-busy-to-rest" trap
  • Provide opportunities for people to do something away from their desks; moving our bodies helps move our minds. Such as, running, making coffee, walking outside, and getting up to chat with colleagues

Case Study

Ariga and Lleras split people into three groups: one that worked without breaks, one that was told to take a break when distracted, and one that was told to ignore distractions. They found the groups who tried not to take breaks reduced in performance over time, but those who took breaks did not. Ariga and Lleras propose that the brain is built to detect and respond to change, and that prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance.

3. Nurture individual purpose

Grow the passion, energy and productivity that gets released when people connect to others’ purpose. This means aligning and reinforcing what the organization is trying to achieve and what the individual senses is their calling in life or their unique talent/s. For instance, in Reinventing Organizations, Frederic Laloux, who argues that recruitment, training and appraisals are times to explore where individual and organizational purpose meet.

How to do it:

  • Ask teams to try these questions, used by the German network of mental health hospitals at appraisals or during training: Is my heart at work? Do I sense that I am at the right place?
  • Or if they prefer, teams could use something more traditional, such as: What aspect of the organizational purpose resonates with you? What unique talents and gifts are you contributing to the organization's journey?
  • Remember that leaders often forget to nurture their individual purpose too. When leaders feel re-energized, they will often nurture the individual purpose in others too!