One of my favorite shows is The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and without fail, his closing segment always gets me. It’s called Moment of Zen and it highlights a poignant or ridiculous video clip that may have been featured on the show (or in some cases, may just be an interesting video they couldn’t fit in).
On any given night, you could see Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin singing Blueberry Hill or Admiral Mike Mullen arguing for an appeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It’s a way to move on past the show with a certain feeling of appreciativeness or laughter.
As I thought more about why I enjoyed this segment though, it became clear to me that it was because creating your own “Moment of Zen” is so powerful, especially in the day-to-day world of work. We need these moments of levity or poignancy at work to drive home the importance (or sometimes even the unimportance) of what we spend a considerable amount of time doing.
So I wondered: is it possible to actually create these Moments of Zen in HR? And if so, how do you do it?
In defense of Zen in the Workplace
Whenever I say zen, managers and employees alike often get a chuckle. While the whole idea might be a little silly, it is still rooted in some basic principles.
Having these magical little moments can help get your regular work done more efficiently. When I’ve talked to employees, I’ve always heard the real impact of HR getting it right or getting it wrong. Not only did I better prioritize things based on what most impacted employees, I also did those tasks with better sight of the end goal: satisfied employees.
They can also impact your performance at a position or company you might not like. So for example, when I worked in a position I didn’t particularly care for, it was important for me to create these little moments as a coping mechanism. Is it a long-term strategy? No, but it can help.
It is also important to understand how these moments can impact employees too. If you can help someone perform their job better or get through a rough patch in their career by creating a few moments a day where they can reflect or forget, that’s a tool managers can use if you do a couple of things right.
One of the most powerful ways that I’ve found is intentionally scheduling something towards the end of the day that will get you excited and create these moments.
So for instance, I recently had a discussion about our websites with someone and it was later in the day. We started talking and at the end of it, I had a list of ideas and motivation going forward. I walked away from my station for the night (hard to do when you work from home) and basked in the moment. It helped push me forward on a different task that was less than desirable the next day that I had stalled on.
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Timing this could also be something for the end of the year. Now, I know the end of the year was always tough for me in HR, but I would intentionally schedule some of those moments. Things as simple as a year-end wrap-up conversation can be good. Another thing that can be done is thinking about what you accomplished, and what you hope to accomplish, in the coming year.
Another way to create Moments of Zen is to meet with people in other departments to talk. This isn’t a fact finding mission or an investigation, and it doesn’t have to take long. It is simply a way to chat and figure out the pulse of your workforce.
Now if you’re a good HR pro, you probably do this already but sometimes it is good to make sure you have those checkpoints scheduled in your calendar for when you’re busy. In fact, the best time to have meetings with other folks in your workforce is when work is busy, things are stressful, and important decisions are being made.
Equally important is connecting with your own departmental employees and your managers. Again, these don’t have to be ridiculously formal but they should be a regular part of your work routine.
Part of this is for your benefit, too. After all, one of the main benefits is the energy you can take away from meetings like that. Regularly scheduling these moments is important for that.
It doesn’t require a ton of time (a few minutes a day) but I’ve found that doing this has to be intentional. It may seem odd to try to create these events, and perhaps you think you can simply enjoy whatever little Moments of Zen come naturally. But it should feel natural with enough practice to be intentional about this and not have it be a time and energy suck (the exact opposite of what a Moment of Zen should feel like).
The hope is that with some regular practice, you could do all of the above and gain perspective, appreciativeness and thankfulness for your role in HR. Or at the least, blow off a little harmless steam instead of going postal.