In Focus: Mindfulness Part 4
Kate Unsworth, CEO of Kovert Designs, on how she has used mindfulness to transform her team’s working life
I’ve been meditating for nine years now. I spent quite a lot of time in India in my early twenties, so I had a really nice foundation of a meditation practise and a mindfulness practise. About three years ago I was working as a technology consultant and I had this realisation that I was so caught up in the daily churn of corporate life living in London that I’d completely lost touch with that more connected version of myself and all of that mindfulness practise that I’d been doing for seven or so years. It was at that point that I realised that it was technology that was having the biggest negative impact on my life, being attached to my devices 24/7 was actually stopping me being able to be present.
So I went on a digital detox for two weeks and during that period I reconnected with that version of myself that I had ‘found’ in India. One thing was very, very clear to me: not only was I able to focus more purely on the tasks I was looking at at work, I was actually able to reconnect with emotions and other people more clearly. So when I came back off that two-week digital detox I said to myself, ‘I need to change my life. I need to figure out how to take control of my digital life’. I quickly realised that I didn’t really have the tools that I needed at my disposal to help me do that.
“After a two-week digital detox I said to myself, ‘I need to change my life. I need to figure out how to take control of my digital life’. I quickly realised that I didn’t really have the tools that I needed at my disposal to help me do that.”
At that point I left the company I was working for and I set up Kovert Designs. The purpose of Kovert is to understand the role technology plays in our lives and to build physical products — like this ring that I’m wearing — that help you be more present in the moment. So essentially what we’re doing is we’re using technology as a solution to technology to help you be more present and mindful in your daily life.
Mindfulness is really ingrained into the genetic makeup of Second Home and part and parcel of that is a daily meditation practice that I host with my team. Just behind these curtains there’s a hanging garden — it’s a tech-free zone, which is very on-brand for Kovert — and four o’clock every day we stop, everything stops, for 20 minutes and we sit in silence. I suppose we were lucky enough that a few people on the team had had mindfulness training in the past and were able to encourage the other members of the team to participate.
But now I encourage everybody, even the new members of the team, to come in at four o’clock every day, even if they haven’t had the training, to just sit. What I’ve found is that there’s really kind of four main things that have come of this — they all start with a ‘c’ by coincidence.
The first is that it really helps the team gain clarity. We’re in start-up mode, we’re in build mode, we’re working up to a big launch on Sunday, so the team are working late, they come in early mornings, they’re working weekends, and one of the most important things is that we’re on form in order to tackle these problems. So this 20-minute reset which is, for us, the middle of the day at this point, is really, really helpful in gaining that clarity.
The second is creativity. We’re a design company first and foremost, we design products, so I often find that for me the most creative moments I have come during that 20-minute break in the middle of the day.
The third one is compassion which is really important for us in terms of building a team culture where people can be empathetic.
The fourth one, which is my favourite one, is comradery. This was a kind of unexpected bonus, I’ve found that at that 4pm slot every day when the team comes together, it really does result in meetings and new friendships being built amongst the team between people who wouldn’t normally interact. So I’ve noticed for us it’s really helped build our culture and improve on those team relationships.
This talk took place at Second Home, a creative workspace and cultural venue which brings together diverse industries, disciplines and social businesses. Find out more about joining us here: secondhome.io