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Ford introduces 'mindfulness' training

Asleep at the wheel: Relaxation techniques, breathing exercises, yoga and even a work nap can drastically improve employee happiness and efficiency, says Ford.

Modern approach to employee welfare puts mindfulness on the Ford map

13 May 2016

A FORD engineer-turned-psychologist is leading a new strategy for the car-maker that aims to boost employee efficiency and welfare by offering on-the-job 'mindfulness' training.

As an electrical systems engineer of 36 years with the Blue Oval, Phillip Chen Yi Mei recognised that Ford employees could boost their productivity with some simple mind-training techniques, after completing a thesis on the effects of mindfulness on wellbeing.

Participation in an initial 2015 pilot program jumped by 125 per cent, prompting Ford to invest another chunk of its $300 million research and development budget to extend the program to a further 100 management staff, on top of the first 82 participants.

According to global Ford futurist Sheryl Connelly, two thirds of Australians regard mindfulness – the practice of paying attention to feelings and personal experiences – more than a buzzword but about a half struggle to prioritise the techniques.

“Australians see mindfulness as much more than a fad, they believe it is becoming a core part of our society,” she said. “That’s important for companies like Ford and others such as government officials to recognise as it can lead to important behavioural changes.”

The broadened training program is enabling Ford staff the opportunity to explore the emerging trend and incorporate the methods into their lives, which benefits both employee and employer alike, says Ford.

A study found that the typical office worker checks their emails up to 70 times per hour, is interrupted every three minutes and takes approximately 28 minutes to return to the task, highlighting the potential to improve productivity.

During the four-day off-site training course, Ford employees are taught techniques to improve wellness and provisional effectiveness, and how to apply them to day-to-day activities including the work environment.

“My interest in psychology started about 15 years ago, while completing my thesis I focused on how to use mindfulness training to improve personal wellness and effectiveness of senior managers in the business world,” said Mr Chen Yi Mei.

“Ford’s investment in training and development enables us to work more collaboratively and innovate more while creating an environment that is conscious of employee mindfulness.”

Ford says the training courses are part of its “aggressive new innovation agenda” that is being rolled out worldwide and has gained universal support including Ford Australia president and CEO Graeme Whickman.

“We are committed to fostering an organisational culture where a strong sense of ‘family’ exists, good relationships are valued, teamwork is internally motivated, people feel genuinely valued and empowerment and employee involvement are inherently part of our nature,” Mr Whickman said.

“We have already committed to another 100 Ford managers to engage in mindfulness training on top of the 82 who have already completed the phase one training program, with discussions to look at offering it to all employees.”

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