We can no longer dispute the fact that healthy employees lead to healthy businesses.
Many companies give their employees the chance to stay fit by covering the cost of their gym membership. Some companies offer yoga, meditation or other mindfulness practices. This is due to their proven effects on reducing stress, depression and anxiety.
Apple, Google and HBO are some of the bigger companies that offer on-site resources and rooms to keep their employees healthy and motivated.
Mindfulness in action
What happens when that is not enough? When going into a different room and getting a mindfulness boost is not sufficient, because once you are back in the workroom your neck, back, arm or shoulder still hurts, and you can’t focus or stay motivated?
It is usually easier to let go of tension or to feel more relaxed by removing yourself from a situation that brings about stress or pain, but there are ways to find strain-relief that can be employed the moment tension occurs, simply by making a different choice.
Prevent larger issues
This can, often quite swiftly, solve built up problems, or prevent temporary interferences from becoming larger issues. Looking at symptoms separate from circumstance will only allow part of the picture to emerge.
When pain arises as a result of how we move through our day, what we often lack is a process to look at the means-whereby. The means-whereby is a term first used by F M Alexander, developer of the Alexander technique.
It refers to how one uses themselves with an entire, psychophysical perspective. Being mindful is paying attention to how we do things while we do them, which comes down to the way we move and respond at that moment. It is the conscious and unconscious choices that we make.
It is easy to think that mindfulness is somehow separate from the body, or only related to the thinking parts, as in the head or brain. In this case, mind equals whole being consciousness. This includes all your physical matter.
It will not matter how much we think differently if it does not translate into moving or taking action differently. If this translation does not happen naturally it is because there is some interference in our coordination.
To be truly mindful we need to include the movement of our body, moment by moment in relationship to task and activity. This is how an effective and efficient integration of change takes place.
The ultimate mindfulness technique
The Alexander Technique, which has been around since F M Alexander developed it in the 1890s, offers this means-whereby. It continues to be one of the most efficient ways to consciously change the way we use ourselves, psychophysically, in movement, behaviour and performance.
The first major scientific trial of the technique said that it is “the most effective at reducing back pain”. Back pain, neck pain, and headaches/migraines, are some of the most common symptoms of using yourself in ways that work against your natural coordination.
The human is a vertebrate and what Alexander discovered was that the relationship between the head and spine is central in our coordination and has a global effect on our system. When this relationship is not optimal in movement it affects every other part. And every other part affects it back, which is why tension often will show up around the head and spine.
This is why the Alexander Technique has the ability to prevent and treat a broad spectrum of health issues in all types of work, and improve any activity or task that you do. If the way you approach a task is not constructive, or if the habits you have are in the way of your natural coordination, it will create unnecessary tension throughout your system.
The success at Victorinox
In 2002 Victorinox, the company who manufactures Swiss Army Knives, began implementing the Alexander Technique. Within five years their absenteeism, due to illness, injury and accidents, had gone down 38%, from around 55 000 hours per year to about 34 000.
Before introducing the technique the company had reached a point where employees, could no longer perform their tasks due to their physical symptoms of pain and had to be released from work.
In their case, in the product departments, which had a lot demanding tasks, the pain was centred in the hand, arm and/or shoulder. For some, these pains had become chronic, such as wrist tendinitis. In marketing and sales, issues with shoulder, neck and head also occurred.
Performance vs well-being
When they began implementing the Alexander Technique, they noticed that it was rather difficult as their employees had to accept something new. They also had to find a balance between performance and personal well-being. They wanted to improve the health of their employees but without losing work efficiency.
As a business, it can be scary to invest in things where the outcome is unknown, or when you cannot guarantee that it will have the effects you desire. Victorinox saw their employees as their most valuable resource. They felt like they had to do something.
They started with four departments. Then they moved forward, step by step, until it was completely implemented throughout the whole of Victorinox in Ibach.
Choosing the Alexander Technique as the way forward worked out well for the needs of Victorinox. Paul Auf der Maur, Production Manager at Victorinox, said that “balance-time has become a component of our everyday work and we can’t imagine working without it”.
Balance-time consisted of 2-3 breaks from work every day at their workstation. This was to inhibit the regular patterns and practice the Alexander Technique with movements designed to improve coordination. In this way, continuous update and integration could take place.
Running a business with attention to human design and implementation of movement integration that is tailored to the specific tasks and activities of the business will inherently bring greater empowerment, personal satisfaction and well-being to employees whilst increasing efficiency, productivity, performance, creativity and sustainability in the business.
And when employees have a different room to do yoga or meditate, or train their physique, they can do that too with greater ease and efficiency, as they now have a process to apply to improve any activity they do.
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