Our guest blogger this week is Michele Grant, director of the social enterprise Rising Minds. Rising Minds specialise in mindfulness based resilience coaching and training and Michele explains more about ‘mindfulness’ and the implications for the public sector.

‘Mindfulness. The word is seemingly everywhere these days. Newspaper articles are proliferating, companies as diverse as Google, Lloyds Bank, GSK and Transport for London have done it and now even that sometimes fractious place, Parliament, has taken it on. Yes, more than 100 MPs and Peers of the Realm have tasted the benefits of mindfulness.  And what’s more, an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Wellbeing Economics has identified mindfulness as one of four key policy strands, spawning a whole separate All-Party Parliamentary Group tasked with looking at how mindfulness training can be embedded in the workplace, in schools and in communities.

So what does this mean for the public sector? And why should mindfulness training be moving up the list of priorities for HR managers? Perhaps the answer is in this definition:

“mindfulness means paying attention with flexibility, openness and curiosity”.

It ought to be easier than it is. But faced with escalating pressures competing for our attention; with complex decisions to make; with moving goal-posts; with stressed customers and with too much to do, managing our attention can be far harder than it should be. Worse, we can fall into an auto-pilot mode in which our brains become less flexible, less open, less curious.

The public sector workplace is certainly no stranger to change, to increasing workloads to shifting accountabilities and to complex demands. Added to that, many roles carry with them the potential for risk and crisis in the public gaze. In these circumstances, the ability to manage attention, to notice signals below the surface and to respond wisely rather than react automatically can have significant impact on outcomes. It can make our decision-making  more robust, give space for creative approaches to flourish and increase our openness to the issues faced by colleagues and other teams.

For staff in the front-line, mindfulness training can transform how customers and clients experience the services of the organisation. Staff become more resilient.  Sickness absence and turnover – often a ‘flight’ response to pressure – can be reduced.

Poplar Harca, the London-based social housing and regeneration company, introduced mindfulness training for staff in 2013. Director of Housing, Andrea Baker says “it is the nature of what we do that our staff is engaged in demanding work with challenging people and difficult situations.  We have recently undergone a very substantial reorganisation which inevitably means that many of our people are experiencing uncertainty about their place in the organisation, their role and the nature of their duties. We are under regulatory scrutiny as well as being directly accountable to the residents of our homes to whom we deliver services. What started out as a pilot has since become a core offer to our staff.  “

Later this month, new councillors from across the country will be getting a taster of mindfulness at an LGA weekend training conference.  Mindfulness training is set to be embedded in education and in the NHS with the APPG recommendation to train all doctors and teachers. For the public sector more generally, the time has come to try it out and test the benefits.’

Michele Grant

Director of the social enterprise Rising Minds – risingminds.org.uk, specialise in mindfulness based resilience coaching and training.