THE QUIET ROOM: ON USING MINDFULNESS TO INCREASE DIVERSITY
NEW SPACE, NEW CHALLENGE
When we moved into our new building a year ago I immediately identified the corner office as the ideal space for a “Quiet room”, Omnicor, on the other hand — did not.
Our culture is all about science, big data, coding and algorithms, which is why perhaps they were less ready for such a physical commitment to what seems to be an unnecessary waste of a corner “office”. After all, think of the meetings that could be conducted there. Initially, it seemed totally wasteful to designate such a space for doing nothing, not to mention the weird factor. Asking for a “Quiet Room” was just too far a stretch for the current culture, so I started a simple weekly mindfulness practice of twenty minutes.
Mindfulness is the new favourite child of stress management and wellness, it is defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” This seems simple right? Try to be in the present and within seconds the “Monkey Mind” takes over and your thoughts are flooding the present pulling you to the past or future demands. This is why it’s a lifelong practice!
But does it make a real difference?
Marlynn Wei, MD, JD highlights the powerful results that can be gleaned from a modest mindfulness practice — Which is good news for our quaint mindfulness revolution happening at Omnicor!
To get some momentum going I campaigned a small group of seasoned meditators in the company and together we took it in turns, hosting a very simple session. We did not have a budget to outsource this, so we simply sourced an appropriate guided meditation from the array of free resources available on the internet. We transformed our boardroom weekly, into a warm and welcoming space, inviting our team to join. It started small and has built from there, this year has seen a consistent practice every week, including guest teachers and even some early morning Yoga in the garden with over forty-three sessions of mindfulness practice to date.
Omnicor was on track to not only becoming open-minded about mindfulness, but to fully embracing it. Now I saw the perfect opportunity to push, once more, for a Quiet Room. Indeed, because of the stark change in Omnicor’s culture — I was finally given the go head to create the room.
It was because our mindfulness practice had slowly endured, that the Quiet Room was a natural next step.
We quickly transformed the space, repurposing existing furniture and by adding plants, the room became an inviting oasis to fulfil our team’s physical, spiritual and religious needs. A versatile space, for power naps, a haven from stress and over-stimulation, meditation, yoga, prayer, reading or just reflecting.
It’s private and no one can see what’s happening inside, it’s really up to the individual to create their own experience in the space. The space is quietly well utilized but the impact on the culture is loud and clear. Prior to the Quiet Room being a feature at Omnicor, our Muslim colleagues would be scrambling to find a room for Salaat, the prescribed five times daily prayers, this is no longer a difficulty and for this reason alone, sending such a strong message of inclusivity, it would have been worth it. Respecting and accommodating our team with dignity speaks louder than many courses on diversity. Religious tolerance and respect is a natural practice, as people from different creeds and belief systems share the space.
THE QUIET ROOMS IMPACT
It’s early days, but the feedback about both the mindfulness practice and Quiet Room is promising. With all the tight deadlines, long hours glued to screens and bombarded by multiple devices, offline time has become imperative for our cognitive and emotional bandwidth. Although we are a small business, silos still exist, mindfulness allows us to connect and build deeper more authentic relationships.
HOW TO CREATE YOUR OWN QUIET ROOM
- Get leadership buy-in: Our MD joins the session every week and this sends a very strong message, not only does he acknowledge that stress is real but that we all need to defrag across all levels of staff.
- Keep it relatable: Don’t go too esoteric or too challenging in the beginning. For beginners this is already a strange and unfamiliar practice, all they need to hear is “let’s open all our chakras to the mother energy” and they will bolt!
- Create an open and flexible group: No pressure to attend, this will make it safe to show up when people really want to be there.
- Get the team involved in organising the sessions, make sure it’s well run and the room has been set up with intention and care. This must be consistent and reliable.
The Quiet Room has certainly made a positive change to Omnicor’s culture as it could to any other company.
Author: Colleen McLintock, Head of People Development at Omnicor