Embracing mindfulness at work: How Alley integrated mindfulness to avoid burnout and foster creativity

Collage of woman stretching against and artistic background

“Mindfulness” — it can feel like a buzzword without any real application (especially at work), but after reading about how team members at Google use mindfulness to avoid burnout and foster creativity, we decided to give it a try here at Alley. Practicing mindfulness gave us a whole new set of tools to cultivate better habits, such as avoiding distractions, finding unbroken time, and understanding our individual productivity patterns. Most importantly, it helped us create a more open and collaborative work environment.

First Mindfulness Session

We began with a 90-minute session called “Mindfulness in Client Situations.” After a brief introduction to mindfulness, we engaged in a breathing exercise and followed it up with discussions on mnemonics and checklists for mindfulness:

  • HALT: hungry, angry, lonely, tired
  • Shisa kanko: the practice of pointing and calling
  • STOP: Stop, Take a breath, Observe current state of mind and body, Proceed
  • Emergency checklists
  • The Pomodoro Technique for time management
  • Concentric circles exercise: drawing where we saw ourselves within our circles of home, work, family, society, etc. 

“By letting it go, it all gets done.”

We planned our first all-staff mindfulness session, titled “By Letting It Go, It All Gets Done,” inspired by a quote from Lao Tzu. The goal was to create a community at Alley where team members could come together, share experiences, and collaborate on growing mindfulness practices within our organization. Just like exercise, mindfulness is about challenging ourselves. (If it’s easy, you’re likely not getting all you can out of it.) And having a community of like-minded individuals can help keep us engaged and motivated. To foster this, we created a new Slack channel, #cc_mindfulness, where team members could continue the discussion.

First Mindfulness Challenge

We kicked off a team-wide mindfulness challenge in our new Slack channel, inviting the entire Alley staff to a voluntary seven-day challenge for five minutes daily. Participants could “vote” via emoji reaction in Slack to indicate their interest in the following options: 

  1. Headspace: Download a free trial of the app and follow a daily short, guided meditation.
  2. Meditation for Beginners: Practice this daily, non-guided meditation.
  3. Meditation Timer App: Download an app (like  Calm or Insight Timer) and practice daily.
  4. Interested, but Not This Week: This selection indicated a participant couldn’t commit to trying something new that week, but they were still interested in learning more.

At the end of the seven days, we held a session to discuss our experiences with the challenge: what we found difficult, physical and mental changes we experienced throughout the challenge, and our plans for continuing this practice. 

Quarterly mindfulness sessions

We decided to implement a quarterly mindfulness series to give our team reserved time and space for continued growth and identify opportunities to expand mindfulness across our practice.  For example, Mindfulness for Clients and Teams focused on integrating mindfulness across client relationships. Other sessions, such as Mindfulness for Dealing with Burnout, focused on recognizing, reversing, and building resilience against burnout and provided evidence-based mindfulness strategies for combating burnout. 

Maintaining mindfulness

Incorporating mindfulness into our work environment at Alley has been transformative. This “buzz-worthy” trend turned out to be a practical tool for avoiding burnout, fostering creativity, and improving our overall work environment. (We even integrated a gratitude list feature into our Slack bot, Alleybot, so our team can incorporate gratitude into their mindfulness practice with an organized tool.) Our mindfulness practices have helped us foster community and build a more thoughtful and appreciative work culture that boosts our team’s productivity, well-being, and resilience.

Want to learn more about building a productive and positive work environment? Check out these 10 Strategies for Increasing Psychological Safety, Improving Equity, and Amplifying Marginalized Voices at Work.