One of the saddest things someone ever told me was that the office loo is his only refuge whenever memories of his wife who died from cancer surface unexpectedly during his workday. Having a high-profile sales job means keeping up a positive persona for his team – but she was his beloved best friend and such moments often bring tears. Inside he’s desperate for a place where he can just stop and breathe: “My job keeps me grounded, but there really is no space for my humanness there.”
And that’s what we all need, a space to be human.
Even more importantly, the design and feel of the places you visit to grab a moment’s peace are instrumental in helping you actually experience that peace. (If you can beat the loo for an unlikely location, tell me about it.
A Manifesto for the Mind
We don’t attend places of worship – where we come together and reflect – in the numbers we used to. But the fundamental human need to spend time in peaceful places lives on, whether compelled by religious belief or not, and whether we acknowledge it or not. And as we plan to explore in our upcoming Ministry of Calm manifesto, everyone should have the right to access a quiet space wherever and whenever they need it.
Mindfulness on the Move
Mindfulness is everywhere. It’s a wellbeing buzzword. Most people have an idea of what it represents – the desirable ability to be ‘in the now’ instead of letting mind (and body) gallop ahead to the next thing and the next. But many are unsure how to access this sought-after mental state.
The clever Headspace app described as ‘meditation for modern living’ offers handy tools to help fit mindfulness into your day wherever you are. It’s a great way to learn how to create calm within you. Let’s not forget though that we’ve a body and senses as well as a head. You’re likely to find a more all-encompassing place of mindfulness in a sensitively designed, dedicated quiet space. An empty meeting room or the office kitchen just won’t cut it.
So whether a sacred setting or simply a peaceful non-denominational room, it needs to be somewhere that is clearly ‘other’ than where we usually spend our time. And we don’t only need these places in offices, but also at home, in schools and universities, shopping malls, healthcare spaces and travel hubs – everywhere.
To say people strive for a good work/life balance is redundant. There’s so much more to us these days, so let’s just call it a life balance. And striking that balance harmoniously is about much more than being able to work flexible hours.
A Quiet Revolution
Taking time out to find focus and calm has huge benefits for us both as individuals and as a workforce. Research abounds to show how meditation improves concentration, helps decision-making abilities and simply makes us feel better in ourselves.
In that case, imagine how a growth in the number of easily accessible quiet spaces could help employers benefit from a calmer, happier workforce? We believe it’s time employers, educators and developers considered quiet rooms as a matter of course – either refurbishing existing spaces or incorporating them at the planning stage. The friend I mentioned at the start of this post would benefit hugely, for one.
I’ll leave the last word to legendary author and nature-lover John Muir:
“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.”
Simply, places in which to be human.
Does your workplace provide a place for reflection?