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Mindfulness, a Key To Employee Well-Being and Productivity

6 minute read

“Mindfulness training appears to be getting popular in the business world, and many large corporations have been incorporating mindfulness practices into their culture. For example, companies such as Google, Apple, Procter & Gamble, General Mills, Mayo Clinic, and the U.S. Army offer mindfulness coaching, meditation breaks and other resources to their employees to improve workplace functioning.” Source: Wikipedia

What exactly is mindfulness?

Definitions and techniques of mindfulness are wide-ranging. One of the most concise defines mindfulness as:

The quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.

Mindfulness is an essential part of Buddhist practice, where it is known as "sati". Over the past decades, the practice of mindfulness has gained popularity in the Western world, and programs based on mindfulness models have been implemented within a variety of environments, including corporate settings.

A study by the US National Library of Medicine concludes that mindfulness has been found to result in better employee well-being, lower levels of frustration, lower absenteeism and burnout as well as an improved overall work environment.

Sounds promising?

Then have a look how you can use this 2500 year old practice to boost employee well-being and productivity in your organization. But first let’s see why mindfulness is so important in today’s working environment.

As the economy becomes more and more knowledge-based, the brain replaces the body as the primary production factor. And from 8 to 5 our brains have to cope with an awful lot! Texts, emails, chat messages, phone calls and meetings compete incessantly for our attention. We are often expected to multi-task, which is virtually impossible for the human brain. People who try to multi-task are less effective than they would be if they focused on one thing until it was done. This is where mindfulness comes in. Mindful people have learned to concentrate on one task at a time and tune out distracting thoughts. They are more focused and productive and better able to handle stressful situations.

By the way, mindfulness is not the same as meditiation, though meditation is one of the ways to achieve it.

More benefits of mindfulness in the workplace

Apart from increasing focus, efficiency and productivity, mindfulness can have other positive effects on your workforce.

  • Mindfulness improves personal relationships. Practicing mindfulness makes us more tolerant and compassionate towards colleagues and can do a lot for personal connections and a relaxed atmosphere.
  • Mindfulness enhances creativity. Being more relaxed as a result of practicing mindfulness will result in new insights and more out-of-the-box thinking.
  • Mindfulness increases emotional intelligence. An inner sense of calm makes it easier to cope with negative feelings and judgments. Employees will be better equipped to deal with workplace disagreement or differences of opinion and react less emotionally.
  • Mindfulness decreases stress. Practicing mindfulness techniques enhances resilience and the ability to perform in situations that non-mindful people will find extremely stressful.

Ways to promote mindfulness at work

  • Lead by example. It needs no explanation that, as a manager, you first have to be what you want others to become. Showing a mindful approach in your own work and your contacts is the best way to convince your employees.
  • Make practicing mindfulness an integral part of your company culture. Hiring an expert to talk about mindfulness and teach techniques is a good way to introduce the concept in your organization. But if you leave it at one occasion it will not have a lasting impact on your staff. Promoting mindfulness should be a commitment. One of the things that shape your company culture, as a work environment where employee well-being has the highest priority.
  • Encourage mindful exercises. For example, think of a short breathing exercise at the beginning of the work day. This will help people to mentally leave their commute in traffic or their family problems behind and focus on the job at hand.
  • Make taking breaks part of the job. Taking short breaks throughout the day will help employees to be more aware and fresh. Don’t schedule one meeting immediately after another. And stimulating employees to take time out and really enjoy their lunch provides a far better way to practice mindfulness than expecting them to grab a quick sandwich at the desk.
  • Create a quiet space. A growing number of companies offer their employees meditation training and have furnished special meditation rooms. Even if you don’t want to go that far, it’s a good idea to have a quiet space at the office, where people can go to chill out and refocus without the distraction of colleagues, phone calls or email.
  • Provide individual support. People will respond differently to mindfulness training. And especially non-desk and frontline workers, as well as employees who work from home, will need extra attention and monitoring. Consider using an employee communication app to keep your staff motivated and to gather individual feedback. And don’t forget to keep your mindfulness communication "fun" rather than "duty". Participation should be voluntary, and pressuring employees goes against the very essence of mindfulness.

Conclusion

A program of workplace mindfulness is first and foremost a tool to enhance employee well-being, with a higher productivity as a pleasant by-product. There are many ways to introduce mindfulness in your company. Go all out, hire trainers and create meditation spaces, or start with small adjustments to the workplace and the working routine. See what fits best in your company culture, and subsequently let it become an integral part of your culture.

Interested to know how workplace culture strengthens employee loyalty and relationships? Download our latest infographic here!

Rob is a content writer, copywriter and novelist. His work for Apple, WWF, Mercedes-Benz and many other brands has been awarded with prestigious creative awards.

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