Why HR should practise and signpost meditation during Coronavirus

Written by
James McErlean, general manager, Europe, Headspace for Work.

30 Mar 2020

30 Mar 2020 • by James McErlean, general manager, Europe, Headspace for Work.

COVID-19 brings challenges for every business and employee. With their focus on looking after people, HR professionals are especially affected, writes James McErlean, general manager, Europe at Headspace for Work.

Protecting employees during this anxious and uncertain period is about understanding what workforces learn and gain from meditation: compassion, better relationships and the alleviation of stress and anxiety. 

HR, coronavirus and compassion 

Compassion among senior managers is important, and something HR professionals can encourage. 

In a changed society, many will be juggling work with looking after kids and doing shopping for older relatives. They might also have family members with underlying conditions or could have long-term health problems themselves. There’s also the question of job security amid the economic shutdown. All this contributes to more stress and anxiety. 

Leaders need to encourage people to share how they’re feeling and reassure them. That might be done through adjusting their working hours so that they can attend to their elderly relatives or children, or by being someone they can turn to if they find the situation overwhelming. 

While being compassionate towards others during times of crisis is important as a leader, it’s also key they remain kind to themselves – particularly when difficult decisions need to be made or conversations had. Practising meditation places a deliberate emphasis on directing well-wishes and goodwill first to ourselves and then, as a ripple effect, to others. 

Self-care, meditation and taking time out 

Across the world, HR professionals are recognising the importance of encouraging employees to take time out.

What they are realising is that, through meditation, people can familiarise themselves with anxiety-inducing thoughts and storylines and understand those thoughts are neither defining nor real. This new perspective enables employees to gradually change their outlook, distinguishing between irrational episodes and truth. 

The advantages of embracing meditation are scientifically proven. A recent study showed just 10 days of using it resulted in a 14% decrease in stress and a 16% increase in happiness and positive emotions, while eight weeks of meditation and Google and Roche led to a 46% reduction in depression and 31% fall in anxiety.For an HR professional trying to build a supportive working culture during these uncertain times, encouraging workers to take a little bit of time out to look after their mental health is crucial.

Coronavirus and using mindfulness to address anxiety and uncertainty

The current anxiety and uncertainty around coronavirus is understandable, but it is possible to manage these emotions in a way that doesn’t leave employees overwhelmed by stress and unable to work. Mindfulness and meditation can turn people’s attention to the present moment and show them how to step away from a stream of negative thoughts. It can also encourage a compassionate attitude towards colleagues.

Headspace has made its resources for businesses accessible to all. Visit the COVID-19 content hub for meditation sessions and tips. 

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