Mindfulness in the workplace is a chance to escape without even leaving your desk. You don’t have to meditate or sit in a position you haven’t tried since school, you just have to find a minute to yourself. In difficult moments at work when spontaneous combustion seems attractive, mindfulness is a better alternative.  

What is mindfulness? 

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment. To get started, take a minute or two to stop what you’re doing and just concentrate on what’s around you – focusing on the environment you’re in, the sounds you hear, the scents you smell, even your own breathing. Any intrusive thoughts are turned away. One or two might even capture your attention, that’s OK – just come out of them and return to a grounded, centred sense of you in the moment. The important thing is to notice, without making decisions, passing judgement or contemplating actions.

By withdrawing from the need to react to thoughts, you allow yourself to take a step back. This reduces stress, replacing it with a feeling of space in which you have room to think objectively once again. Mindfulness enables you to detach from distractions, worries about the future, or thoughts of the past. It gives you the chance to better regulate emotions, reduce stress, enhance concentration, and develop a more balanced outlook on life.

How important is mindfulness at work?

With workplaces spinning in a whirl of AI, data, messaging and updates, mindfulness gives you a moment to breathe, helping you return to a mental space free of clutter. It’s the quickest way to recharge your batteries so that, afterwards, you can better focus on what you need to do.

For leaders, there are obvious advantages in ensuring that employees are motivated and engaged. Organisations in Europe, the US, and Asia currently experience common problems with motivation, morale, cross-generational communication, engagement, productivity, and engagement. Low engagement costs the global economy $8.8 trillion, or 9% of global GDP, according to Gallup’s 2023 State of the Global Workplace report.

Companies are readily shifting focus towards sustainable energy yet there’s sometimes less interest in a sustainable way of working – in other words, practices that allow human energy and motivation to be renewed. There are different approaches to achieving this. Organisations can embed ‘sustainable human’ policies in their company culture. As part of this line of thought, individuals can rediscover a sense of direction through mindfulness.

Benefits of mindfulness in the workplace:

Stress reduction: Mindfulness techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation, provide employees with tools to manage stress more effectively.

Improved focus and concentration: Mindfulness helps people develop their attention span. By becoming more focused, and better able to resist distractions, individuals engage in clearer single-tasking.

Enhanced creativity: Mindfulness encourages individuals to observe their thoughts without judgment. This open-minded awareness can lead to new perspectives and insights, fostering a more creative work environment.

Effective communication: Mindful communication involves active listening and responding thoughtfully rather than reactively. This improves collaboration and reduces misunderstandings.

 Emotional regulation: Mindfulness helps employees manage their emotions constructively. This can be particularly valuable in high-pressure situations, preventing knee-jerk reactions and promoting a more balanced response.

How to practise mindfulness at work

Mindfulness isn’t something you have to religiously commit to every day or patiently learn over hundreds of hours. If you get interrupted, you can simply try again – picking up where you left off. Consider it as a little something you can do at lunchtime, like going for a walk. You can even apply mindfulness while working – by remaining consciously present in your thoughts and actions.

Mindfulness overpowers negative self-talk, and cuts through procrastination by bringing you back to your purpose. These tips might help you find focus, regardless of how, when, or why you’re being mindful:

  1. Be consciously present in the moment Whether you’re taking time out to find mindfulness in the moment, or you’re working in a mindful way, the same techniques apply. Be aware of what’s going on around you and what’s going on within you.
  2. Using mindful exercises Whether you have one minute or 30, mindful exercises train your brain and body, helping you find a grounded, centred moment of peace. This process helps you work with people and situations, removing tendencies towards fight or flight.
  3. Ditch the multi-tasking myth Nobody can do two things at once, at least not effectively. Better to engage with tasks one at a time through a mindful sense of presence and purpose. This is the quickest route to achievement, rather than feeling you’re achieving by trying to multi-task.
  4. Remember to be mindful The brain can save energy by working in an auto-pilot state, drifting between thoughts. This allows room for day-dreaming, negative thoughts, and procrastination. Develop focus through a routine of mindfulness, practising on certain days or at specific times.
  5. Slow thoughts for speedy work How do mindful thoughts sit alongside the urgency of getting things done at work? Just as a proper night’s sleep makes us more efficient, moments of calm and clarity have a similar effect. Mindfulness and work are not mutually exclusive, they go hand in hand.

Examples of mindfulness at work:

Mindfulness can be encouraged in the workplace through various measures, from training to allowing time out to practise. By using future skills to create a more caring work environment, leaders can develop a mindset in which mindfulness is accepted by all, regardless of how far individuals choose to try it themselves. Various examples of mindfulness at work share an open-minded approach to wellbeing, including:

Training programmes: Organisations can offer mindfulness training programs, through either in-house trainers or external experts. The Working Voices training course in mindfulness help you anchor yourself in the moment by learning to control your breathing.

Designated spaces: Creating quiet, peaceful spaces where employees can engage in mindfulness activities can be beneficial. These spaces provide employees with a retreat from the demands of the workplace, allowing them to recharge and refocus.

Mindful meetings: Start meetings with a brief mindfulness exercise to bring participants into the present moment. This practice can enhance the quality of discussions and decision-making during the meeting.

Flexible work arrangements: Allowing employees to engage in short mindfulness breaks can boost their overall wellbeing and productivity. This might involve taking a few minutes to practise deep breathing, or contemplation.

Lead by example: Leadership plays a critical role in promoting mindfulness. When leaders model mindful behaviours, such as active listening and managing stress in a composed manner, employees are encouraged to follow suit.

Types of mindfulness at work

From Chinese social workers to international lawyers, mindfulness has been shown to have beneficial effects. After introducing a mindfulness programme, law firm Herbert Smith Freehills noticed a 10% rise in employee performance and an 11% rise in communication. Similarly, Microsoft recorded a 25% reduction in stress, Accenture a 30% increase in focus, and Nike 90% improved awareness.

While some employees and leaders may express initial resistance, those companies that successfully educate their people on the benefits of mindfulness have used it to enhance one or more areas of performance. Types of mindfulness at work can include a focus on positivity, enhanced creativity, and better awareness.

For employers, mindfulness serves as a tool to reduce stress, improve mental health, develop resilience, and increase productivity. For employees, it offers the quickest route back to normality, a chance to escape when you’re not able to step away from your desk.

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