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Three Steps to Creating a Mindful Workplace

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Three Steps to Creating a Mindful Workplace

Written by: Estee Jimerson | Envestnet

The markets move quickly, and financial advice and financial technology firms must also move quickly to keep pace. Even in the midst of a technology revolution in the advisory profession, it’s important to make time for thoughtful reflection in the workplace. All too often, with deadlines seemingly always looming, the focus is on putting one foot in front of the other and getting the next deliverable out the door as soon as possible. In the markets, excessive trading becomes pure churning[1], with a lot of work done but potentially no value gained – and the same applies to how we work.

The successful firms of the future must embrace mindfulness, taking time to reflect and to shape a thoughtful path forward, as well as to help their employees make the best possible use of their time.

Take a moment to pause

In a recent Harvard Business Review article, Justin Talbot-Zorn and Leigh Marz wrote, “When we’re constantly fixated on the verbal agenda—what to say next, what to write next, what to tweet next—it’s tough to make room for truly different perspectives or radically new ideas.”[2] Time to pause, to walk or sit in silence and reflect can give employees a chance to de-stress and re-center themselves before moving on to the next project. And The Atlantic reported that after instituting a mindfulness program, Aetna saved more than $2k per worker in healthcare costs and gained about $3k in productivity.[3]

The answer to the demands of a fast-moving industry isn’t always to run faster. 

Leaders and managers shape the culture of their teams. If the focus is on meeting one quick deadline after another, employees won’t feel comfortable taking a step back to ask bigger questions and add new insights. Zorn and Marz recommend that leaders set an example by taking a few minutes of quiet mindfulness or meditation between meetings, a practice that could similarly be encouraged with employees. Leaders can also set an example by fully disconnecting from the office on vacations and expecting employees to disconnect as well, enabling them to return refreshed.

Allow time for transitions

In 2014, the average financial advisor served 156 households over the course of the year.[4] That’s a wide range of financial needs, family circumstances and investment goals for an advisor to keep track of and manage. In our world of real-time data, financial advisors are expected to track and respond to clients rapidly.

Yet switching from client to client or task to task too rapidly can be highly inefficient. Research shows that[5] it takes on average roughly 23 minutes for a knowledge worker like a financial advisor to fully resume an interrupted task. Consider the amount of interruptions in a typical day, and it’s easy to see why it’s hard to create time to focus on a single project. Minimizing unnecessary interruptions and allowing employees to take time to complete one task before moving on to the next can help them focus effectively and produce their best work.

Focus on core competencies

For employees, filling out one more item of paperwork or submitting another report or taking on one more administrative task isn’t much on its own. But when those three activities are put together – the paperwork, the report and the administration – suddenly they begin to take a substantial amount of time out of an employee’s day. Every employee has an area they excel in and a reason why they were hired. Consider what work they are best at and what secondary or nonessential tasks could be reassigned to others or eliminated entirely in order to free up their time to play to their strengths.[6]

Taking a moment to pause and ensuring that you’re pointed in the right direction and taking the smartest route to your destination can drive better business results as well as improving employee morale. And it can even be restful.

[1] Churning, Investopedia.
[2] The Busier You Are, the More You Need Quiet Time, Justin Talbot-Zorn and Leigh Marz, Harvard Business Review. March 17, 2017.
[3] Corporations’ Newest Productivity Hack: Meditation, Joe Pinsker, The Atlantic. March 10, 2015.
[4]5 Questions You’ve Always Wanted to Ask Your Financial Advisor: Answered, Hal Bundrick, U.S. News and World Report. April 14, 2014.
[5] Worker, Interrupted: The Cost of Task Switching, Kermit Pattison, Fast Company. July 28, 2008.
[6] Make Time for the Work That Matters, Julian Birkinshaw and Jordan Cohen, Harvard Business Review. September 2013.
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