Mindfulness in Management

Cross-legged man holding brain and heart

Understanding the importance of your employees’ well-being.

By Gracie Ryker

While reading an article on employee engagement, I came across this sentence that will forever stick with me:

“In all actuality, our jobs are literally killing us.”1 Now, this was in the context of sedentary lifestyles and ways to help your employees find work–life balance, but it made me stop and think about my employees and what I ask of them on a daily basis. I don’t know about everyone’s practice, but I imagine that the day-to-day goal setting, benchmark planning, and constant drive to get new patients in the door is relatively the same everywhere. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that, and it’s no secret to anyone that health care is a very competitive business, with many driving components. No insurance companies out there wait in line to raise our reimbursement rates! However, the difference with health care, and the branch of physical/occupation therapy in particular, is that we not only have to juggle a business and money mindset, but we also need to pay attention to our ultimate goal, which is the health and well-being of our patients. The only way to do that effectively is if we are also watching out for the well-being of our staff! Creating an atmosphere that supports mindfulness is one way to do that.

To be honest, balancing the care of our patients with the care of our staff can be extremely challenging. Each week we ask our employees to dedicate most of their time to:

  • Making an emotional and physical investment in getting patients better
  • Achieving business goals in order to create a profit

And we want them to do all of this with a positive attitude. Additionally, our employees are also concentrating on advanced education, hectic home lives, spouses, children, and the daily activities that come with being a part of a household. I am tired just typing this, let alone trying to think about motivating people to get up and pour their heart and soul into their work!

With all this on our plates, it is no wonder that health care is one of the leading professions for employee/professional burnout. Burnout has become more and more of a hot topic these days, and has been proven to be the leading cause of negative professional impacts for employers.2 With this in mind, the New Year presented a great opportunity for me to start incorporating mindfulness into my professional development with my staff. I decided to start by sending out one positive affirmation a day via email to key employees and to the employees of the clinics that I directly manage. The goal I set was to do this consistently for 30 days. Simple enough: Find an affirmation, email it out with a few words, and hopefully spark some creative conversation. What I got in return was 10 times what I anticipated, and I realized that I was onto something positive!

As I sent out the daily affirmations, I reflected on my own goal for that workday and acknowledged what I was struggling with. In my notes accompanying the affirmation, I even touched on a little bit of what I was battling outside of work that I recognized might be affecting the way I was communicating with my staff. In return, I received responses from employees who generally never shared how they were feeling or what was driving them. I was able to open up a different, deeper level of communication with my staff that went beyond what tasks needed to be done and instead touched on motivation, inspiration, fear, frustration, and happiness. This brought me to reevaluate my thoughts about what truly drives people.

When motivating our staff, lists and incentives (material or monetary) can only go so far. If we can tap into emotions, then we can impact and inspire others. Affirmations allowed me to manage more effectively by connecting with what my people needed at work. Simply asking them to reflect on how they felt, and how I could help create a positive workplace mentally and emotionally, seemed to free them up to perform at a higher level. When feelings of stress or frustration came out, I was able to get down to the root issue and make a plan for going forward toward resolution. In fact, most of the time, there was nothing that truly needed to be done; all that needed to happen was to allow the employee to be heard. The second most amazing part of this experiment was that it was totally and utterly free! All it took was 15 minutes of my time in the morning to send out the email and then time to reflect with each employee if they reached back out.

Some companies have been incorporating mindfulness for years now through different avenues such as employee yoga or meditation. Google and Aetna come to mind as larger corporations that have renowned mindfulness sectors. In fact, Google has branded their classes “Search Inside Yourself” and now market them as mindfulness tools for employees and employers. Aetna partnered with the American Viniyoga Institute to do a pilot study of mindfulness. The end result of the program was that every employee who participated gained, on average, 62 minutes per week of productivity!3

So whether your efforts are small acts of kindness or establishing a large, branded mindfulness program, any act toward employee mindfulness will help raise morale, improve employee devotion, and enhance your office environment. That, to me, is proof enough that being aware of our employees’ emotional needs is an investment worth making.


1www.snacknation.com/guides/definitive-guide-employee-engagement. Accessed May 2019.

2www.wired.com/story/googlers-avoid-burnout-secretly-boost-creativity. Accessed May 2019.

3www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/google-meditation-mindfulness-technology. Accessed May 2019.

3https://hbr.org/2015/12/why-google-target-and-general-mills-are-investing-in-mindfulness. Accessed May 2019.

3www.huffpost.com/entry/mindfulness-is-aetna-ceos-prescription-for-success_b_5a4bf577e4b0d86c803c7a1f. Accessed May 2019.

Gracie Ryker

Gracie Ryker is vice president of the Washington State Physical Therapy Managers Association. She has worked for Integrated Rehabilitation Group in Mill Creek, Washington, for 11 years as a compliance officer and front office manager. She can be reached at Gracie.Ryker@irgpt.com.