When you know how to practice mindfulness at work you will greatly increase your productivity and reduce stress. Plus, it will help you deal with all those emails, presentations, meetings and phone calls.
Mindfulness is the simple practice of focusing the mind on the present moment in a nonjudgmental way.
As a meditation teacher, I have personally taught many people to be more mindful in the workplace. And I have seen how it can reduce stress, improve communication, and boosts staff morale.
Benefits of practicing mindfulness at work
Practicing mindfulness at work is beneficial 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.
There are big pluses for the employer too. Not least the fact that practising mindfulness at work leads to increased productivity and higher employee satisfaction. In turn, this improves employee retention rates.
A 2014 US study conducted by Dane, E., & Brummel, B. J.et al.  showed that being mindful at work led to an increase in Turnover Retention because mindful employees are better equipped to handle stress.
Simply put: the benefits of mindfulness at work extend to both employer and employee. This is why companies like Adobe, Google and Facebook have started to incorporate mindfulness at work.
So, what exactly is mindfulness? And how do you practice mindfulness at work?
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.
Mindfulness started as a Buddhist practice. Buddha taught that mindfulness is a meditation practice focused on living in the present moment. But today there are many modern ways to be mindful, meaning you don’t necessarily have to sit with your eyes closed and take 108 breaths, which even I myself, as a meditation teacher, sometimes do not have the time to do.
Being mindful at work means staying in the moment, being non-judgmental, and being calm. There are my ways to do this. For instance, Jon Kabat Zinn’s Body Scan Meditation, and traditional breathing meditations, as well as mindful communication.
As a meditation teacher, I have many times witnessed the benefits of practising mindfulness in the workplace.
We are beginning to realise the importance of better equipping employees with the tools they need to handle stress. And one of the best ways to do that is to practise mindfulness at work.
There are countless benefits of mindfulness for the workplace. But they all come down to this: 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 diagnosed with work-related mental health conditions.
I personally used to suffer from severe stress at work. I would feel so much pressure that it would give me headaches, and my headaches would make it impossible to be productive, which led to more stress. It became a vicious cycle. That is, until I started practicing mindfulness at work.
Mental Health at Work
According to MentalHealth.org, 14.7% of employees suffer work-related mental health problems, the most common of which is stress (although anxiety and depression are also commonplace).
Practising mindfulness at work has been shown to improve workers’ ability to handle the pressure and expectations that can cause mental health conditions (READ: overcoming stress at work).
You might wonder how you’re supposed to practice mindfulness while working. After all, it’s not like you have a lot of time. However, Shamash Aldina (“author of Mindfulness for Dummies”) says, “Mindful exercises can be as short as you wish. Even one minute of consciously connecting with one of your senses can be classified as a mindful exercise.” 
Importance Of Mindfulness for Work Performance
Not only do mindful exercises at work improve mental health, but they also improve performance. [READ: Meditation For Success]
Practising mindfulness in the workplace increases motivation, productivity, concentration and many other elements.
One way it helps with productivity is that it boosts single-tasking (the opposite multi-tasking), which is essential for productivity. Multi-tasking does not work, as proven by Zheng Wang at Ohio State University, who found that students who multi-task felt more productive but were actually less productive
But it can be hard not to multitask at work.
Janice Marturano, founder of the Institute for Mindful Leadership, says “The information we’re bombarded with [from emails, texts, etc.] can [produce anxiety] and it can create a sense of disconnection that can overwhelm us [in our professional lives]”.
Do you feel like you’re constantly bombarded with noise and information? I know the feeling. Often when I am at work I continually get emails and messages pouring more and more tasks on me, making me evermore stressed.
The staggering amount of noise and information at work has given rise to the term “information economy.” Writing for the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkley, Jacqueline Carter and Rasmus Hougaard say, “In the attention economy, the ability to maintain focus and concentration is every bit as important as technical or management skills.”
Thankfully, mindfulness helps to tune-out noise and people so you can focus.
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. It also changes the Default Mode Network, so that if you are automatically multi-task you will naturally develop more of a single-take mindset.
Calmer, more relaxed and more mindful employees lead to a happier workplace that is devoid of the negative comments and bickering of toxic workplaces. But perhaps the biggest benefits of mindfulness at work are improved focus and concentration.
Research shows that mindfulness enhances the region of the brain responsible for self-regulation, the Anterior Cingulate Cortex. This helps employees 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…”
How To Practice Mindfulness At Work
Having seen the staggering benefits, you are probably wondering how to practice mindfulness at work.
There are many mindfulness exercises for the workplace. In essence, we can be mindful of any simple, repetitive task (of which most jobs have plenty).
Ways To Practice Mindfulness At Work
- Takie 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 in fresh air. It refreshes the mind and clears out negative thoughts and stress.
- Practising 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 massive for staff morale if practised 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 zen 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.
- Writing: If your work involves writing, you can always use it as an excuse to practice mindful writing.
- Meditate on your commute to work.
Taking It Further
There are so many reasons to start practising 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.
By introducing mindfulness in the workplace, you can improve staff morale, reduce turnover rates, and increase productivity. It’s a simple practice that benefits the whole team.
If you’re an employer and you would like to incorporate mindfulness at work, contact me today.