Today’s work culture demands that workers rapidly adapt to shifting changes – from hybrid working models to increasingly high workloads due to labor shortages. However, these demands negatively affect employees’ well-being and cause tremendous strain on their mental health. Regular mindfulness practice is proven to negate these adverse effects on employees.
At the core, mindfulness is about being self-aware of your thoughts and emotions. It is the ability to be fully present, having an inward and outward awareness of oneself, others, and our surroundings.
Our minds are filled with a myriad of thoughts in our fast-paced life, requiring us to be readily responsive to any stimulus. However, this hyper-reactivity results in feeling overwhelmed by everything that is going on around us.
The goal of mindfulness is not to empty our minds or have no thoughts. Instead, it aims to teach us how to pay attention to physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts and see them more clearly and non-judgmentally.
Simply put, mindfulness is a mental exercise that can be mastered and gives us the ability to manage our emotions. By using techniques like meditation, calming breathing exercises, and practicing yoga, we learn the tools to cope with challenging situations.
What is Mindfulness in the Workplace?
While mindfulness may sound like a good idea, the question is, how do we put it into practice during a busy workday? From draining meetings, demanding projects, and looming deadlines, the workplace is one of the biggest stressors in our modern lives. Encountering draining and arduous experiences in most work environments is inevitable, so they take a toll on our mental health.
In fact, one statistic states that 83% of U.S. workers suffer from work-related stress. Additionally, another study found that nearly 40% of Americans reported that the stress of the pandemic has negatively affected their mental health. Long-term exposure to work-related stress can significantly affect mental health, causing burnout, anxiety, and depression.
Working under these conditions stifles creativity, and employees find it harder to make decisions or accomplish meaningful tasks. Workers can apply the principles of mindfulness to reduce stress and increase productivity. Hence, employers’ interest in mental health services, particularly the demand for mindfulness, has soared.
Benefits from Practicing Mindfulness in the Workplace
Much of how the brain works remains an enigma to this day. However, scientists can study how mindfulness affects the brain through MRI scans. It turns out there are many benefits to practicing mindfulness in the workplace.
- Stress Reduction – Various research has reported significant stress reductions in the brain after practicing mindfulness.
- Increased Creativity – Empirical research suggests that mindfulness promotes out-of-the-box thinking, problem-solving, and expands innovative thinking.
- Improved Work Relationships – Mindfulness promotes positive social relations and greater connectedness in the workplace.
- Fosters Resilience – Greater resiliency to everyday stressors is associated with mindfulness.
- Commitment to Work – Mindfulness has been linked to a higher commitment to work and increased job performance and satisfaction.
How to Increase Mindfulness in the Workplace:
By now, you might be wondering how to incorporate mindfulness and wellness in your workplace. Here are some tips for increasing mindfulness in the workplace.
1. Mindful Exercises at Work
To improve the emotional well-being of your employees, start by introducing simple exercises. Finding time off from our busy work schedules may be difficult, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be mindful at work. Some examples of mindful exercises are one-minute meditation breaks, mindful stretching, going for a walk and getting some fresh air, or practicing breathing exercises.
2. Laser Focus
Despite multitasking being perceived as an impressive trait, research shows that focusing on a single task at a time is more efficient and productive. Splitting your attention between two or more tasks increases stress and reduces the ability to focus. When we think we are multitasking, in reality, we are just shifting the attention from one task to another very quickly, consequently causing our minds to tire out quickly too.
One technique used to clear your overwhelmed brain is to place a small object in front of you. Then for 30 seconds, put all your focus on it, repeating this on and off laser-focus exercise several times. Giving a single object your full visual attention provides your mind with some time to relax and regain focus.
3. Mindful Reminders
As our minds are always “switched on,” it is very easy to go back into auto-pilot mode, so it’s essential to make a conscious effort to stay mindful. Encourage employees to set aside a few minutes every day to recenter, focus and connect through breathing exercises.
Furthermore, many wearable devices send mindful reminders to users prompting them to reflect and breathe. Alternatively, you can schedule these reminders manually if you lack the technology.
4. Growth Mindset
When we make a mistake at work, we tend to have a critical and negative inner dialogue caused by our fixed mindset. A fixed mindset makes us believe that our abilities are innate and static, whereas a growth mindset accepts that through practice and learning, we can improve.
Cultivating a growth mindset in the workplace means being non-judgmental of your talent, performance, or results. Instead, accept that there will always be areas for improvement and room for growth.
Employers should recognize the contributions of their employees and celebrate their achievements. On the other hand, failures and negative feedback need to be presented as an opportunity to grow and learn something new.
5. Meditation Breaks
If you are under the impression that you need to set aside 20 long minutes of meditation to achieve mindfulness, you are mistaken. Even short five-minute bursts of mindfulness are incredibly beneficial to employees.
Regular short breaks and lunch breaks are at the core of any mindfulness program as they promote better concentration and higher-level thinking.
6. Mindful Leadership
Senior management plays a vital role in maintaining a mentally healthy work environment, as increasing mindfulness starts from the top down. Managers need to create the initiative and own it. This means being open to discussions, participating and encouraging others to any mindfulness sessions, and above all, reinforcing a culture of mindfulness.
As a leader, your responsibility is not only to invest in mindfulness but also to develop self-awareness and compassion for others and lead by example. To promote a mindful workplace, give staff the chance to take regular breaks and create a quiet space in the office.
There is an excellent potential and value that mindfulness can bring to any work environment. The listed mindfulness ideas are easy to incorporate in your workday to improve productivity, reduce stress, and boost job satisfaction