Over the last 40 years, a number of Japanese manufacturers have established factories in the UK. They brought “just in time” and Kanban methods to their factories here …and also their habit of having staff take part in daily communal exercises. In Japan, they call it “Rajio Taisou” – “rajio” which means radio and “taisou” which means physical exercise.
Studies have suggested that this daily exercise leads to better employee health (i.e. less illness and reduced longer-term conditions like heart disease etc) leading to less absenteeism; and also to fewer accidents in the workplace – perhaps the exercise increases strength and co-ordination. Employees say that the exercise fosters a stronger sense of community within the workforce.
Yet I am interested in the impact of Rajio Taisou upon mental wellbeing. It would seem that such an exercise regimen provides a useful “cue” – to enable people to “get ready to work” – but I think it is deeper than that.
In a previous blog I looked at the way we can often take our mood (anger, aggression, upset, depression or anxiety) from one area of our lives into the next. Rajio Taisou often uses slow “co-ordination exercises” that require concentration – providing an opportunity to “decompress” and free the mind from chatter, rumination and anxiety. This may well have the effect of setting aside the emotions that the staff bring into work with them… allowing them to then focus and engage in their work without such “internal distractions”. In fact the evidence does show that concentration is improved and mistakes are reduced. And it may lead to an “endomorphine rush” or even an absorption, or “flow experience”, that could both create a feeling of happiness.
Finally, studies show that we often take habits from one part of our lives to another. Starbucks was at one point the USA’s largest educator as it sought to teach its staff “self-reliance” (i.e. personal organisation and wellbeing so that staff increased their self-confidence and ability to engage with customers). It seems that by becoming better organised in their domestic arrangements then they would bring these habits into their sport, their work, their diet and their interpersonal relationships. It could be that Rajio Taisou achieves a similar effect of introducing organisation into the start of the day.
The Starbucks case study is a fascinating story – as is the case whereby industrial giant Alcoa was transformed by a programme that had the whole company focus on safety… but curiously this had the effect of boosting productivity and empowering staff to increase innovation… such that the business results were very impressive.
As you might expect I am very interested to identify a company that might become the “mindful company” – so that by focusing on supporting staff to improve their mindfulness the results would go beyond the immediate gains of reducing absenteeism, staff turnover and mistakes – but could also empower staff and increase openness and psychological safely to drive innovation and change. I am thinking that any kind of consumer facing or care or educational organisation might be right for such a programme. Please contact me if you might be curious.