Mind-body awareness is at the root of the future of work

by | Sep 9, 2020 | Blog | 0 comments

Employee performance is the direct result of awareness of the energy levels and moving our bodies improves this performance.

The body is the mechanism for perception, action, emotion, relationship…It’s also the most direct way to change these things. “Change your mind”, is abstract. “Stand or move differently”, is more concrete and therefore doable. “We move through space as we move through life”, embodiment teacher Stuart Heller says, and the extension to this is that we can change our life through how we move, making mindset actually body set.

Walsh, Mark. Embodiment – Moving beyond mindfulness (p. 33). Unicorn Slayer Press. Kindle Edition.

I truly believe the future of work is affected by how we look into (human) performance as a result of energy management.

What we create and deliver is the direct expression of our motivation and energy. The way this energy is managed is influencing the motivation. Simply put, the quality of our rest, activity, nutrition, and overall health affects our energy. This is not new but well worth keeping in mind.

My challenge is to make people aware of this energy quality through an awareness of the moving body. Listening to the body, and making conscious choices on how to move it, will result in improved work performance. And will also affect the team performance.

The reason we need this now is because we are facing massive changes in the way people work and in the physical environment of work. This affects employee performance as the common office is disappearing and moving into our homes. This creates a mix between private and professional life.

Such shifts manifest in the body. Through movement it is possible to change the way we perceive the threatening circumstances. The mind is awakened through the felt sense of what is happening in the body – awareness through observation – and begins to react accordingly.

Specific movement practices allow for exploration by bringing an inquisitive quality during the practice. Such practices can help us understand which underlying patterns prevent us finding balance when things change.

In this article I am connecting employee and team performance to an awareness of energy levels. By using movement as means to inquire our patterns of decision making.

Remember: “We move through space like we move through life”. If you review your movement on a daily basis, does it give you energy, or merely spends it? Most importantly, does movement support the mindset you need in order to perform (your best)? What qualities should you find in the way you move so that you can react adequately to the challenges that arise?

The future of work is becoming the present. Is it for the better? I believe so, but it takes time and the workforce needs reeducation. There are new beliefs around work structures and now is the time to include a wider spectrum of bodily needs, as we change our work environment. As new guidelines are being created, I find it important to share knowledge around body awareness so people become owners of their professional choices.

The current work context is requiring us to move away from the conservative office rooms to an always-on(line) attitude. The screen became a second home and businesses are changing their guidelines to meet this new reality. Home becomes office and screen is the “new normal”. What does it mean for the body, and for the mind? What does it mean for performance and delivery?

It starts with an awareness of our body and the way we move. As our work is affected, so does the way we communicate with peers and colleagues. A new mindset is required for adaption, adjustment, connection, creation and ultimately delivery.

The problem with employee performance

To think that until now employee performance has been a quantifiable outcome of the people’s dedication is something I have difficulty understanding.
Such a process, referred as performance management, can give straightforward results, and help with decision making. But it is still a narrow view over dedication, focus, energy, mind-body states, which are essential human elements we use during our performance.

The current view over employment performance places us, humans, as a quantifiable resource and that easily impacts the psychological well-being. This can often lead to burnout and stress.
Burnout and stress is in the end an extreme energy consumption leading people to experience blockades, not only at work but in the whole spectrum of their life. And obviously businesses get severely affected by this.

Research has demonstrated that workplace health initiatives can help reduce sick leave absenteeism by 27% and health-care costs for companies by 26% – WHO 2017

How might businesses, corporations and organizations, implement measures to rethink performance processes in order to reduce, and ideally remove, the impact from burnout and stress? While having the people at the center of this ?
What specific points should be looked into in order to make this change happen

We need to look at qualities such as focus, happiness, dedication, mind, body. These human qualities are the result of physical and psychological well-being. When these are in balance we become productive, react accordingly and are able to face challenges.

Without motivation there is no focus

The loss of motivation is a manifestation of a lack of energy. A major observation of feeling demotivated is in our posture, as we lose the will to move and become stagnant.

This lack of motivation leads to stress since one is no longer able to react and deliver, or perform. In our body, stress manifests through physical feelings of tension, contraction and spasms. And mentally we start feeling blocked.

Many times we are unaware. This doesn’t mean we don’t feel it. It means we go through life diminishing the importance of our body signs while being unable to make choices that could help our body. This is awareness.

To first notice our body, the signs it send us is our first step towards awareness.

Breath is a good way to start.

Feel and Think: Where is your breath? Where is your mind?

I would invite you to start noticing how you breathe when some of the following scenarios happen:

  • When confronted with failure
  • After 1 hour behind the screen 
  • After 2 hours behind the screen
  • In a meeting with constant interruptions
  • When you need or have to defend an idea
  • A sensation of contraction in your body
  • Pain in lower back, mid back, upper back
  • A lethargic feeling
  • When requested to do something you don’t wish to

What does your body do?

In those same situations, what does your mind do?

Can you notice? What do you notice?

And what do you do to change most instantly? Perhaps it is breath. Perhaps it is posture.

Exploring awareness

  • Take a deep breath through the nose and exhale through the mouth.
  • Breathe into the areas that are triggered by stress. With ease and respect for yourself. 
  • Change your posture to create a feeling of empowerment by opening your arms, chest,  and stand in a wide stance: open yourself to the circumstance.

These mind-body exercises are suggested strategies to invite you to become aware of how you feel. This is part of an embodied experience. 

In a simplistic way, embodiment is related to how we feel. Our state. It is now a whole new field with a lot of attention. This is related to everything i share on this platform.

Awareness leads to authenticity and builds leadership skills

In a recent interview on HBR podcast, guest Francis Frei – Harvard Business School professor – is asked about the qualities of authenticity as a means to enhance employment performance. 

They would perform better once they know how to feel in their authentic self. And in return how an authentic leader would affect their performance as well. To my perspective, feeling their authentic self is deeply related to awareness on our energy levels. Being aware and truthful of our capabilities. From what depletes our energy, and our resources. She continues to say that if  “each one of us can bring our authentic self, we get to make more robust decisions…” 

To manage energy levels, one needs to learn how to inquire through the body. This can be explored in the examples I shared before and are inspired in eastern practices such as Aikido and Yoga. Both practices have inquiring qualities in them which help with observation.
If you haven’t already, I invite you to listen to: Yoga as a Creative Tool for the Future of Work, with Alicia Ingruber and Aikido and the power of Choice, with Anita Paalvast available on my podcast.

Breath and awareness are two big qualities of such practices which we can all benefit from.

Also, I invite you to experiment a few empowering postures from EYP yoga – Empowering Yoga Postures – developed by Mark Walsh – a great resource for creating movement in the body and understand its connection with the way we communicate..

Rest is also a huge part of practicing inquiry, of which I won’t go much in detail. Knowing when and how to stop, especially when our mind is set to achieve a goal. Ignoring rest is the start of self-neglect and the pitfall for injury: emotional and physical.

How do businesses start preparing for the future of work?

To survive, businesses of the future need to consider the human factor. Its unique qualities and include this nature in the design process of the future of work. This is the difference between having leaders moving businesses forward or just keeping it afloat with day to day operations.

What strategies have been implemented in your business that include such qualities and how have they impacted performance?
At the end of the day which strategy will you choose: to create a long lasting positive impact and become a leader in change? Or resource with short term solutions for short term needs?

I invite you to connect with Movement is My Constant and learn more about movement practices that bring awareness and help you create the bodyset and mindset needed for the future of work.

Thank you for reading,

Ana Maia Marques – Founder, Movement is My Constant

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