The Slow Office Movement

Being mindful in the office – slow workplace

Many of us are nicely familiar with slow food and slow fashion – but what about applying those principles of mindfulness and conscious consumption to your workspace?

The Slow Movement began in Rome in 1986, when concern about the introduction of fast-food chains into Italy triggered a push for slower, more thoughtful food production and consumption. From there it grew into a cultural revolution around the world, extending beyond the dinner table into design, technology, travel and the workplace – and the modern-day office can be one of the hardest places to embrace a slower pace. Surrounded by hurriedness and activity, being ‘busy’ is often commended and the notion of slowing down seen as counterproductive – how can doing less possibly be better for business?  

On the contrary, an opportunity to put the brakes on and be fully present at work can improve focus and spark creativity. Forward-thinking companies are finding ways to help their staff pause and reconnect, with office yoga, flexible hours and even afternoon naps on offer. Corporate meditation and mindfulness are on the rise, with employers realising the power of slowing down. If you work for such a company, lucky you! If not, here are some simple practices that will encourage a more mindful, meaningful workday.

As with most aspects of daily life, a ‘quality over quantity’ approach allows more room for the things that matter

Clear away clutter

As with most aspects of daily life, a ‘quality over quantity’ approach allows more room for the things that matter – not to mention the stress, distraction and overwhelm that physical clutter can create. Start afresh by removing anything from your workspace that isn’t inherently useful, beautiful and practical, including dirty cups, expired pens and old Post-Its. Seek out objects that spark joy, have been made ethically and evoke sensory pleasure, from the tactility of a ceramic mug to the smell of wooden pencils. Your desk will soon become a place of calm rather than anxiety!

Prepare healthy snacks

Mindless munching feels commonplace at work, where stress, tiredness or boredom can drive you to make a beeline for the vending machine. Avoid temptation by preparing delicious and nourishing snacks at the start of the working week so you’ve always got something on hand. Try celery and carrot sticks with hummus, banana chia pods, and plenty of fruit and nuts – you’ll save yourself the sugar crash and will feel more focused throughout the day.

Laying some ground rules about when and where you check social media can save hours of thoughtless scrolling

Practice digital discipline

While the Internet is crucial to many jobs, and while we appreciate all the wonderful things the web offers, it can also be easy to fall victim to time-consuming and energy-sapping online habits. Laying some ground rules about when and where you check social media can save hours of thoughtless scrolling – this can be a simple as turning off instant notifications on your phone and limiting Instagram to out-of-office hours.

Take regular breaks

Trying to maintain focus for hours at a time is bad for your health and your work, causing eye strain, creating tension throughout your body that can lead to injury, and resulting in mistakes due to poor concentration. Take a break from your desk for five to 10 minutes every hour to stand up and look away from the screen, using this time to rehydrate and do some stretches. You’ll return to your desk with more energy and a fresh perspective.

Connect with nature

Exposure to fresh air and sunlight is a sure fire way to you help you feel human again after a few hours inside a confined office. Make the most of your lunch break by heading to a local park or garden – even a stroll around the block will do wonders for your headspace. Can’t get outside? Try bringing a bit of nature indoors – a peace lily or snake plant are hardy options for an office environment that will purify the air and bring some green goodness to your desk.

Embrace daily rituals

We all crave routine to some extent, and small daily rituals can have a similar effect of helping us feel grounded and balanced. It might be writing down your intention for the day, closing your eyes and taking 10 deep breaths, making a cup of peppermint tea or watering your aforementioned desk plant – each action is a little reminder of what we care about and what makes us happy. No matter the task, give it all your attention, savouring the smells and sounds around you. In the end it is these moments, not minutes on the clock, that make up our days.


WORDS: SAMANTHA VAN EGMOND
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