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With uncanny foresight to coincide with Mental Health Awareness Week, the BPCC organised another of its popular brainstorming think-tank lunches where a select group were invited to debate an issue which impacts on the workplace. Prompted by the increased prominence on many corporate agendas, we challenged ourselves to discussing “Mindfulness – a collective responsibility for avoiding ‘burnout’ and preserving the mental wellbeing of our workforce”.

Within the convivial surroundings of our regular hosts, the Santiago de Alfama Boutique Hotel, and kindly sponsored by Teresa Patrício & Partners, the discussion was kicked off by BPCC CEO, Chris Barton, who invited participants to suggest their own interpretation of “mindfulness”; what were their personal experiences; did their companies have policies regarding the mental welfare of their employees? and was there a danger that showing care towards an employee’s wellbeing might be confused with invasion of personal space or intrusion?

Blessed with a wonderful blend of backgrounds, the group benefited from a broad range of perspectives; including those who managed multinational corporations with multicultural employees, medical doctors, lawyers, the head of a coding school, human performance coaches, engineers and a headmaster.

We settled on a definition of Mindfulness being “the mental state achieved by focussing one’s awareness on the present moment”, leaving behind preconceptions, biases and mood – concentrating on what is going on in real time.

Whilst many participants advocated focussing on our breathing and posture as part of their routine for attempting a mindful state, others admitted that their best “light-bulb moments” came in the shower, whilst others sensed a certain connectivity when walking barefoot on the sand. Achieving the state of “Here and Now” proved to be challenging within the usual confines of sitting at a desk in a busy office; proximity to nature whilst enjoying passive exercise might provide more conducive conditions for some.

Each participant perceived different types or origins of stress. The school headmaster amongst us not only had to cope with his own issues (like us all), but also the mental welfare of the staff and pupils within his care and the parents which entrusted their precious children to his school. Education is far more than academic learning; developing a ’whole person’ with a healthy body and mind is the true objective. The group reflected on whether we were a lost generation on this matter, and perhaps it would only be the next generation, or the one after that, which would lead with mindfulness at the core of heir culture, values and principles.

It was very enlightening to hear of the amount of mindfulness training which the group had already participated in. Our academic guest shared his scientific findings; one HR director was a practitioner of martial arts so resonated readily with the concept of ridding the mind of distracting thoughts in order to focus, and our speech and presence coach was able to articulate the functions of the left and right hemispheres of the brain in this complex issue. Evolution, parental advice and brain training were all thrown into the mix too. Teaching people how to achieve Nirvana was always going to be a daunting task, though that wasn’t our aim. However, what we did achieve was that each member of the group went away inspired and with further food for thought, in the knowledge that no matter how congested they may find their mental workload, they are not alone; they have made new friends with whom they can share their concerns and in the comfort that there is an attainable solution.

Chamber Members wishing to participate in further editions of these thought-provoking brainstorming think-tank lunches should contact Chris Barton indicating which theme you would be interested in.

Storyline: Bob Williams
The Ops Gents