Leigh Taylor

Building a Mindful Company

Contemporary brain science is unequivocal. Individuals who feel connected to their work and connected to co-workers are the most productive, engaged, and inspired workers around.

Medium’s goal is simple and straight forward: Build a company where coming to work takes you into the flow. That space between activation and stress where you’re doing your best work and loving it. This is another way to think about what work/life balance is. The challenge of the whole idea of “work/life balance” is it implies that work and life are inherently in conflict. That’s not our point of view. It’s true that there are only a limited number of hours in the week, but that’s a limited perspective.

Medium expects and supports people’s growth and evolution as people. We don’t want a false dichotomy where who you are at work is not congruent with who you are the rest of the time. Maintaining a “work self” is exhausting, and distracting from both being productive, and being the best person you aspire to be. And certainly it’s not going to help you feel engaged with your co-workers.

At Medium we expect people to be authentic, inspired, and present. People’s brains should be focused on solving meaningful problems, with creative solutions, collaborating with others who want the same.
When you’re at work you should not be wondering what your role is, what your priorities should be, if your job is secure, and what your manager really thinks about you and your work. When you’re at work, if you’re thinking about office politics, or trying to decode directions from your leaders, then you’re probably pretty stressed and a good portion of your intellectual and creative capacity is going towards managing that stress, rather than solving problems. Fun? Not so much.

The best strategy for building a company with low stress and high productivity is, in a word, mindfulness. Medium brings mindfulness to interactions by using and building business practices that ask people to be explicit and clear in their communication. It is important to be mindful of what co-workers expect from one another by having an organizational structure that makes roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities explicit.

Mindfulness = Being Open Minded = Engagement

Mindfulness has been defined by author Jon Kabat-Zinn as “Paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” Practicing mindfulness in its various forms, leads to an open mind. Open-minded people are receptive to new ideas, new people, and new ways of collaborating. If you have an open mind, in a positive environment, with great people, you’re going to be engaged by both the work and your co-workers. Not only that, you’re going to be a pretty engaging person yourself. The goal is to create positive feedback loops among individuals, as well as between the team and the work.

At Medium, what does mindfulness look like in practice? In meetings and recruiting, it means reflecting before taking action or speaking, rather than impulsively reacting. It means teaching skills and supporting people in looking at their assumptions, and slowing down enough to consider alternative perspectives. It means taking the time to make one’s internal assumptions and concerns explicit so that co-workers can optimally collaborate and learn from one another. It means building time into the work week for yoga, meditation, and other avenues for self-reflection and self-awareness.

These activities are not just perks to make Medium an attractive place to work—but serious investments of time geared toward making people better, as individuals and as a team.

Everyone is a Leader and Everyone is a Mentor

At Medium, people are expected to work robust hours, to take initiative, and to go the extra mile. At the same time, it’s important to mindfully support people being highly productive within the context of work-life balance. Building products to make it a better world is not enough. Building internal products that direct the way work gets done and how we treat and relate to each other is of equal importance. Medium prefers to work in ways that make its employees better, more present and productive people. To accomplish this, everyone at Medium needs to be willing to lead, to teach, and to learn.