It s all in the mind: The value of slowing down

The value of slowing down and renewing oneself is what these Genentech colleagues are trying to teach

Top scientists and business people spend a lot of their time using their analytical, logical and reason driven left brains. Research has shown that in science-led organizations, it is particularly important to offer opportunities for staff to engage their intuitive, creative and emotion-sensing right brains - a chance to slow down from the breakneck speed. It is with this in mind that this small band of colleagues in the South San Francisco (SSF) campus of Genentech has been conducting sessions in Mindfulness since last year.

"Technology is ever-present and although helpful, can also make us feel always 'on'. Managing continuous change is the new normal in any business and the pace seems to get faster. Very often, everyday stress whether personal or at work may disconnect us from ourselves and others and may leave us emotionally depleted," says Connie White, HR.

"Whether we work in an office, cubicle or open-plan spaces, stressors may arise and it is crucial that we find peace and focus within ourselves amidst activity around us. This helps us to show up well, respond in the right manner, and stay focused on the work at hand. This is important for all us of working at Genentech, indeed all of Roche. And Mindfulness can help us greatly in this effort."

What is Mindfulness?

David Wieand, Senior Manager Pharma Development (PD), and one of the founding members of the efforts shares that: "Mindfulness is a type of awareness characterized by being fully present in the moment, aware of but not distracted by oneís thoughts, emotions, and the environment. Being mindful also involves an attitude of openness and acceptance and is a skill which can be developed via meditative techniques, including breathing and concentration exercises. There is literature that provides evidence that mindfulness-based therapies relieve anxiety and depression. It has also been linked to improved attention levels."

Today, these sessions are held twice a month with each session lasting about half an hour. In addition, the group also holds Q&A sessions every two months. On an average 25 colleagues participate in every session.

A chance to renew oneself

"It is important to continually renew ourselves so we can be present, focused, healthy and engaged. Our jobs depend on it. Our families depend on it. So does our ability to be productive. Mindfulness training has been linked again and again to improved attention, focus, engagement and productivity," points out David.

Says Diana: "Our goal in bringing Mindfulness to Genentech is to share these benefits with our colleagues because weíve experienced and seen how powerful they are for us, our friends and loved ones. We all do amazing work every day and it requires a lot. By slowing down, we can reclaim our peace and joy, while at the same time rising to new heights."

Feeling the benefits

These benefits have been felt by participants:"Mindfulness meditation works for me. By the end of my first group session, I was amazed that an ongoing painful discomfort across my chest muscles went away. I am finding the practice good for my body as well as my mind," says Kate Haratonik who works in PD Quality. "I already have a short private meditation practice I do when I first arrive in my office. But I love that there is an opportunity for group meditation on campus. I can't always attend the sessions, but when I can, I return to my work relaxed, happier and often a bit more motivated or inspired," adds another participant.

The group is now working on trying to link the sessions to the ongoing wellness efforts at SSF and globally. "We would also love to expand this grassroots effort across other sites as well," says David.

Tags: Culture