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How to promote your team’s mindfulness at work

Leaders can help their teams with mental and physical health in small ways -- and they don't need to wait for someone else.

6 min read


How to promote your team's mindfulness at work


The CEO began the Zoom meeting by acknowledging how sitting for too long is dangerous to our health. Then he handed the reins over to a yoga instructor. She invited us to mute our mics, go off-camera and stay seated or stand as she led us through two minutes of breathing and movement exercises.

You might have gladly shut off your mic and video, but would you have actively participated? I chose to do the exercises — laughing at myself as I stood alone in my office shaking like a goofy monkey. I’m sure some might have thought the whole thing was too “out there.” But I’m willing to bet that even they appreciated the CEO taking their well-being into account. 

As a leader, do you tout wellness, then leave it to HR to implement health programs? How do you directly contribute to the mental and physical health of the people you lead each day? What if you set the standard for using everyday opportunities to promote your team’s mindfulness? Try starting with these three tips to help your people catch their breath during the workday.

1. Take advantage of virtual meetings

You can’t turn off your webcam in a face-to-face meeting. Virtual meetings provide the luxury of giving people a choice to engage or not engage.

If you fear your team would think you’ve lost your mind by kicking off a virtual session with breathing exercises and stretches, wait until after a break. Then have a volunteer (arranged ahead of time) lead a minute’s worth of breathing or movement as people come back from the break. After a couple of meetings, you’ll find people not only appreciate a moment of virtual self-care but are grateful for your endorsement of it.

Expand a mindful space by playing Zen-like music during breaks. Or, if you want people to move to their own rhythm, play upbeat dance music. Be sure to remind people to go off-camera. You’ll wish you were a fly on their wall.

You can quickly center the attention of busy people who might feel stuck in a virtual meeting by simply starting with a meaningful quote to set the tone. The internet is a treasure trove of memes that you can display on a PowerPoint as people join the session or come back from breaks.

Achieve the same intention by going in the opposite direction with a funny quote to lighten the mood, demonstrate empathy, and make people smile. Studies show people learn more after laughing. Some examples:

  • If you’re leading a conversation about team norms and ground rules: “Sometimes, I can’t tell if I’m in preschool or high school. Oh wait, I’m at work.”
  • For a Monday or Friday meeting: “Why is Monday so far from Friday, and Friday so close to Monday?”
  • If you have some people working from home and others on-site: “My cellphone is acting up, I keep pressing the home button, but when I look around, I’m still at work.”

Regardless of how you begin your meeting, end your session with an honorable close by allowing people the time and space to share their insights, ideas, and intentions vocally or through the chat feature.

 2. Promote reading hours or quiet time

As a young ad executive starting my career, I subscribed to the Wall Street Journal to prove how serious I was about my job. But I was afraid of getting caught reading during the workday and being accused of loafing. So, each night, I hauled the paper home with good intentions. But the WSJ never made it out of my briefcase. Soon, the unread papers piled up on the corner of my desk at work. 

One day, my boss, Chuck Bartholomew, commented on the unread papers. Mortified, I confessed that long days and my busy schedule made reading a challenge. 

I’ll never forget Chuck’s response. He invited our entire staff to close doors or find a space for 30-minutes of quiet time every day. Chuck understood that creativity couldn’t blossom under pressure and that encouraging us to take time to read was essential for a learning organization. Anyone who works in a pressurized, deadline-driven, and competitive industry can appreciate how radical this idea was — especially over 40 years ago!

Sanctioning a free space for people to read pertinent publications, listen to timely podcasts, and watch instructive videos, demonstrates that you care about their growth and learning. You might even encourage them to practice mindfulness or meditate for 20 minutes, reminding them that conscious breathing is a valuable use of time. 

3. Create mojo moments

You can create what I call mojo moments — a spontaneous experience of choice, connection and competence — through informal chats. Thriving requires people to experience the three psychological needs of choice, connection, and competence. 

Using choice, connection, and competence as a framework, discuss:

  1. The choices you made today.
  2. How your choices supported meaningful values or contributed to the welfare of others. 
  3. What you learned today that could prove helpful tomorrow.

Mojo moments promote mindfulness, optimal motivation, and well-being that result in greater productivity, higher sales, enhanced creativity, promotions, and other good stuff.

Great leaders are inspirational leaders. The Latin root of inspiration means to “breathe in.” Perhaps the time has come to give people the time and space to breathe, literally.

How can you help?


Susan Fowler is on a mission to help you learn the skill of motivation. In her latest book, “Master Your Motivation: Three Scientific Truths for Achieving Your Goals,” she presents an evolutionary idea: motivation is a skill. Providing real-world examples and empirical evidence, Fowler teaches you how to achieve your goals and flourish as you succeed.

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