Using Mindfulness to Have Fantastic Business Meetings
Updated: Oct 6, 2022
Meetings and Breaks
As a coach, consultant and trainer, I am often helping trainees and clients optimize their well-being and performance. Recently, I have been working with an NGO that has decided to change the entire structure of the organization. After having several meetings, with the relevant stakeholders, I noticed ALL of them had to jump off the call after 30 minutes and into the next meeting! This is not unusual in the pandemic era. Back-to-back video meetings are common. One conversation ends, another begins, and too often there’s no chance to stretch, pour a glass of water, or just clear your head.
Me, being me, started to speculate that this kind of meeting hopping likely doesn't yield the best results for the individual or the company. Having studied neuro-performance extensively, I hypothesized that breaks between meetings which were actively geared towards relaxing and energizing, would lower stress and yield better outcomes for parties involved. Luckily, the Microsoft Work Lab did the experiments (before I had the chance lol) and concluded that, indeed, breaks are very important for the brain between meetings.
Meditation Relaxes the Brain
Breaks between meetings allow the brain to “reset,” reducing a buildup of stress across meetings. Actively relaxing between meetings using practices such as meditation, reduces the build up of stress by lowering beta-brainwave activity (when our brains are thinking too much we can experience stress which can be measured in brain wave patterns). This has been previously shown to improve creativity, happiness, performance, communications, empathy and productivity!
One of the easiest things you can do is set a buffer between your meetings and use the time to engage in a contemplative practice. This could be 5 minutes of meditation, gratitude, journaling or another method to relax your mind. If you are a manager, CEO, HR manager, or someone responsible for setting up meetings, you could build this practice in the meeting agenda itself. For example, having employees breathe or relax for 5 minutes at the beginning or end of every meeting!
Back-to-back Meetings Decrease Your Focus
When participants had meditation breaks, brainwave patterns showed positive levels of frontal alpha asymmetry, which correlates to higher engagement during the meeting (If you want to know more about this super nerdy concept feel free to direct message me). Without breaks, the levels were negative, suggesting the participants were withdrawn, or less engaged in the meeting. This shows that when the brain is experiencing stress, it’s harder to stay focused and engaged. This seems very obvious to most, however, some people adopt the 'work-hard' mindset and 'hustle' too much, which inevitably decreases performance.
In sum, meditation breaks are not only good for wellbeing, creativity, empathy, happiness, and health, they also improve our ability to do our best work.
No Breaks Between Meetings Can Be Stressful
When people are deprived of breaks between meetings, their beta brain-wave patterns increase, thus indicating higher stress levels. This is likely due to anticipating the contents, deliver, format or participating in the next meeting which keeps our neo-cortex (the thinking brain) highly engaged.
You'll notice in the figure to the left that the stress levels (measured by brain-wave activity) continuously rise in the first diagram and drop between between meetings in the second. This is due to the intervention of a brief mindfulness practice in between meetings to lower beta-brainwave activity and thus relax the brain! The takeaway: Breaks, even short ones, are important to make the transitions between meetings feel less stressful.
In the pandemic era, digital meetings have soared. Whether you are a participant or meeting organizer keep in mind that 25 minutes of focus in a digital meeting is good. Factor in breaks during, before, or after meetings to make sure you are able to focus, concentrate and stay engaged throughout your meetings. Everyone will benefit, and most of all, everyone will feel better!