Everything You Need To Practice Mindfulness At Work
Everything You Need To Practice Mindfulness At Work

There are many reasons to start practicing mindfulness at work, for both the employee and the employer.

For the employee, mindfulness helps us to remain calm during stressful moments. It helps us to be more productive because we are more conscious of what we are doing [READ: How To Use Meditation For Productivity]. And it makes us happier at work, as proven by scientific research [1].

There are big pluses for the employer too. Not least the fact that practicing mindfulness at work leads to increased productivity and higher employee satisfaction, which in turn leads to better employee retention rates. A 2014 US study conducted by Dane, E., & Brummel, B. J.et al. [2] showed that being mindful at work led to a  in Turnover Intention because mindful employees are better equipped to handle stress at work.   

Simply put: Being mindful at work is beneficial for both the employer and the employee.

But what exactly is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the state of being consciously aware of the present moment in a non-judgmental fashion.  

Read our beginners guide to mindfulness for more on this

Benefits of mindfulness at work for mental health

It will comes as no surprise that the biggest benefits of mindfulness and meditation are all mental health related [READ: Benefits of meditation for mental health].

This is arguably more valuable at work than anywhere else.

As a meditation teacher I have many times witnessed the big benefits of mindfulness in the workplace. Too many workplaces suffer from low staff morale—whether office, restaurant, home business or any type of work. We are beginning to realise the importance of better equipping employees with the tools they need to handle stress, and one big part of that is mindfulness.

There are countless benefits of mindfulness for the workplace. But they all come down to one thing: Mindfulness helps employees to reduce reactivity to stress and pressure.

Whether it’s constantly trying to hit a target at work, worrying about an important stakeholder presentation, or harassment from colleagues, the workplace is a haven for stress, anxiety and depression. The result of this is an increase in sick days as more and more employees are being diagnosed with work-related mental health conditions.

According to MentalHealth.org [3], 14.7% of employees suffer work-related mental health problems, the most common of which is (although anxiety and depression are also commonplace).

Mindfulness, the simple act of being consciously aware in the present moment, has been shown to improve workers’ ability to handle the pressure and expectations that can cause these mental health conditions.

For more on the mental health benefits of mindfulness, refer to the link at the top of this section.

 

You may also like to read my guide to using meditation to stop stress.

Benefits of mindfulness at work for performance

Not only are mindful workplaces conducive to mental health, they are also conducive to high performance levels.

Practicing mindfulness in the workplace increases motivation, productivity, concentration and many other elements [for evidence, see the link at the bottom of this section].

Mindfulness makes workers more aware of what they are doing. It boosts consciousness and helps us to focus through the negative thoughts and stress that come from a demanding job. This increased awareness means employees are less likely to make mistakes and more likely to perform their roles successfully.  

The workplace environment also benefits. Calmer, more relaxed and more mindful employees lead to a happier workplace that is devoid of the negative comments and bickering that toxic workplaces are known for.

But perhaps the biggest benefits of mindfulness at work is improved focus and concentration.

Research shows that mindfulness enhances the region of the brain responsible for self-regulation: The Anterior Cingulate Cortex. This ultimately helps the employee to avoid distractions such as emails and social media. The University Of Washington states, “ …Those trained in meditation stayed on tasks longer and made fewer task switches, as well as reporting less negative emotion after task performance…”

You can learn about this in my article on the cognitive benefits of meditation

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How To Be Mindful At Work- Practices And Techniques

Clearly there are big benefits of mindfulness for workers and managers alike. So how do you do it?

The most popular and most important mindfulness technique is simply mindful breathing, in which we focus the mind on the breath for a cycle of 108 breaths [READ: Guide To Breathing]

There are, however, many other mindfulness exercises for the workplace. In essence we can be mindful of any simple, repetitive task (of which most jobs have plenty!).

Some examples of mindfulness exercises for work include: 

  • Taking short one or two minute breaks to close the eyes and focus on breathing. This is the mental equivalent to opening the window to let fresh air in. In refreshes the mind and clears out negative thoughts and stress.
  • Practicing mindful exercise at work: Many workplaces now have spaces for yoga and similar exercises like tai chi. These mindful-exercises help to relax and energise both the body and mind. Ten minutes of yoga at work will pay dividends.
  • Mindful Listening: This exercise is huge for staff morale if practiced as a team. The objective is to listen to each other in a conscious, non-judgmental fashion. Simply focus on the sound of the other person’s voice, without being judgmental. This reduces arguments, heightens workplace compassion, and improves communication.
  • Desktop Zen Gardens: A desktop xen garden is essentially a small box full of white sand that we decorate with a little rake (you will have seen the Japanese rock gardens with circular ripples of sand; these are the same but) for the desktop). This is a very relaxing practice that will quieten the mind and dispel stress.

You might like to try these easy mindfulness exercises too

 

Taking It Further

There are so many reasons to start practicing mindfulness at work. It benefits both employee and employer, and costs nothing. Big companies like Google and Nike are starting to embrace mindfulness, and smaller employers are following suit.

Many companies these days hire mindfulness instructors to visit the workplace to teach employees to be mindful. This is a small investment with big rewards.

Of course you can always learn more by reading a few books. Here are the  best books on mindfulness.

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Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a meditation teacher, author and journalist based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential.

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