May 06, 2010

What Does a “Conscious Workplace” Look Like?

What does a “conscious workplace” look like? This isn’t just a question we ask ourselves at a small, nonprofit Buddhist organization like Tricycle. Increasingly, as a society, mindfulness in the workplace is an idea we are exploring and embracing. With high-profile companies like Google investing in projects like their School of Personal Growth (see Joan Duncan Oliver's "Buddha in the Googleplex" from Tricycle's Summer 2009 issue) it’s clear that the concept has gone mainstream.

This Wisdom 2.0 interview with Gopi Kallayil, part of the Search Advertising Product Marketing Team at Google, sheds a little light on the question: what does a “conscious workplace” look like? It discusses whether tensions and ego-clashes are inherent in hierarchical companies where some employees get promoted and others do not, and the importance of a collaborative work environment.

Talking about office competitiveness, Gopi says:

Some people think that they can escape such issues by going to live in a monastery or ashram, but I have been to many ashrams and seen that these issues follow you — you get upset when the director of the ashram did not promote you to be senior teacher! This is because these things do not exist outside of you; they exist inside you. You take them with you wherever you go, whether you are working at a corporation or living in an ashram.

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jyoti Chhabria's picture

I agree...a workplace primarily exists because I/We as employees are hired to do a task. So the first focus must be on the task.
The question then arises how do we go about doing the task, our attitude, demeanor, how we carry ourselves. I find the 6 Paramitas serve as a valuable guideline, Ethics being one of the paramis. This brings my mind to NON HARM; His Holiness, The Dalai Lama Of Tibet says if we cannot do good, don't do harm. This is a huge help to me. Phra Ajahn Thanissaro Bhikkhu has a teaching on "Purity Of Heart" This helps me to question my motivation/my intentions behind helping people (social work). When i feel very overwhelmed with personal changes, I remember, Venerable Thubten Chodron speaks about "reformatting the hard disk of our minds". All these wonderful jewels of The Dharma Community serve as a valuable guide in helping me/aspire me to make my teeny meeny contribution as a Buddhist in the work place.
Lastly, I must acknowledge, some days I am an aspiring Buddhist, other days I am a practising Buddhist and then there are ever so often those days, when I am just plain 'Dah!'.
And, it is ok. As long as I strive to mindfully do my part.

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Sam Mowe's picture

Hi Rob,

I think you're right: a conscious workplace is going to be one that is made up of conscious workers. Here's another article that explores the use of meditation in businesses—

Rob's picture

More importantly we should ask, how can we help both ourselves and others to remain focused on the task and only on the task? A workplace becomes "a conscious workplace" when workers are conscious workers. The workplace may look like many different things; there are Buddhists in many professions. Perhaps there are attempts to change the appearance of the workplace in order to assist with focus. Distractions are a very common part of almost any work process though, so rather than work on the appearance of the workplace maybe people should work on their ability to focus. How then can we help both ourselves and others to remain focused on the task and only on the task? Now we have a question.