Mindfulness in the workplace “is a 21st-century skill”, defined by Forbes as the “ability to be present and mindful—to stay focused intentionally without passing judgment”. Businesses with mindful practices can be much more resilient, which is especially important in today’s market.
Being mindful impacts employees and leaders alike. Mindfulness in the workplace allows people to do their jobs effectively, without the expense to their mental health.
A study of 10,000 employees who participated in mindfulness activities found that the employees experienced a “28 percent reduction in their self-reported stress levels, a 20 percent improvement in their sleep quality and a 19 percent reduction in pain recorded in surveys of the participants. They also became more effective, gaining an average of 62 minutes per week of added productivity”.
Continue reading for more information on mindfulness in the workplace and how it can improve performance and mental health.
Mindfulness has a wide range of meanings, but is really about the intention of bringing awareness to our feelings and behaviours.
The concept of mindfulness gets its inspiration from Buddhist practices, but as a piece in the New York Times points out, “today [mindfulness] is available as a wholly secular practice that emphasizes stress reduction, the cultivation of focus and the development of tranquility”.
Mindfulness doesn’t have to be a specific action, such as yoga or meditation—though those can be great as a starting point—but rather, mindfulness is a general attitude of positivity and being in tune with emotions.
A big part of mindfulness in the workplace is setting intentions and finding ways to stick to them.
Particularly with remote work, accountability and focus may be harder to come by, which is why it’s important to be more intentional about staying mindful.
This might include things such as setting daily or weekly goals as well as long-term goals, making to-do lists to manage your time, and eliminating distractions.
For example, set specific hours for responding to emails so that you aren’t constantly checking for updates and being distracted throughout the day. You can also turn off notifications or mute your computer and phone so that you won’t be disrupted by pings. It’s also important to schedule “task-free” time, where you don’t have anything specific planned and can just focus on thinking and mindfulness.
Mindfulness and intention setting is about more than just accomplishing things. It’s also what you get out of them.
It’s really important that mindfulness in the workplace comes from the top down.
Not only is it good business practice, allowing “businesses to decrease stress, reduce turnover, improve productivity, recruit top talent and increase innovation”, but it’s also good personal practice.
This means taking breaks to avoid burn out, scheduling meeting-free times or even meeting-free days, and automating any services that can be automated (such as using an HRIS software).
A New York Times guide on how to be more mindful at work recommends the STOP method:
- Stop. Take a brief pause and stop whatever you’re doing.
- Take a breath. Concentrate on measured breaths, and be sure to exhale for as long, or longer, than you inhale.
- Observe. Take this moment to acknowledge what is going on with you, both externally and internally. You don’t need to fix it, just acknowledge it.
- Proceed. Having taken this time to check-in with yourself, you can now carry on with your day.
There are many different ways that you can incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life. You don’t have to do them all, or all the time.
- Take lots of breaks. Whether it’s to make yourself a snack or have a cup of tea, taking breaks can offer clarity. In particular, if you are feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, it’s good to step back and give yourself some space before replying to that email or finishing a task.
- Make small, sustainable changes. Don’t try to take up an hour of yoga and meditation in the morning every day if it’s something you’ve never done before. Instead, maybe try just taking time to set some intentions for the day as you brush your teeth or have your coffee (not necessarily in that order).
- There are a number of great podcasts, apps, and YouTube videos on mindfulness and meditation that you can incorporate into your daily routine.
- Have dedicated time during the day where you disconnect from your phone and social media. This is a great way to bring your attention back to yourself and whatever you’re trying to accomplish.
- Remember that mindfulness is about reflection and giving yourself the space to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. Don’t focus too much on how you do it, but on the doing of it.