Why mindfulness is important at work
Success is defined differently by each person, but there are some general trends. In this day and age, success may be equated to how much money, power and acquisitions one has. There is the idea that there is an increasing search to shift to inner reflective work, a flow towards reducing material goods and finding success through a joy-filled life.
Ideas around success are also changeable, especially in the workplace where there is a constant juggle of projects and targets. The business world provides additional incentives to climb ladders, accumulate things, and make riches.
Mindfulness is an emerging key in the business and corporate world to positive change. So, let’s explore this further by looking at:
Why does mindfulness matter at work?
As much as you may wish to spend your life only engaged in your hobbies and the things you truly love, for most, jobs pay the bills and are therefore necessary. Work occupies most of your waking hours, meaning you may spend more time with your colleagues than with your family. It is important to do something or have a career that gives life meaning.
It is recognised that work is quite often the biggest, or one of the biggest sources of stress in life, perhaps due to work demands and productivity or due to conflict in the workplace. Maybe it’s because work hours extend into the hours meant for home and family, or perhaps it is a place where more often than not you can feel powerless. Work can bring about anxiety and lead to ill-health. This is where mindfulness comes in, as it offers simple ways to reduce the impact that workplace stress can have on the mind and body.
The American Institute of Stress Website provides the following statistics:
- 46% of people noted their main cause of stress to be their workload.
- 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful.
- 75% of employees believe that workers have more on-the-job stress than a generation ago.
- 80% of workers feel stress on the job, nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress and 42% say their co-workers need such help.
- Job stress is more strongly associated with health complaints than with financial issues or family problems.
(Workplace Stress – The American Institute of Stress, n.d.)
There is evidence to suggest that the number of sick days taken for serious mental health issues has doubled in the past decade. Workplaces’ main costly issues are related to absenteeism, presenteeism, turnover, and a lack of productivity.
It is proposed that stress will remain a constant part of the workplace until businesses from the top level of management down to the workers all choose to adopt mindful practices. The research is increasingly showing the benefits including increased productivity, and more engaged and healthy employees.
Training in mindful practices has been shown to have a positive effect on stress and burnout. Research has also shown that employees who practise mindfulness have improved emotional resilience, better work-life balance, and even higher job performance ratings. Ultimately, mindfulness supports the well-being of employees and results in a healthier workplace.
Methods to bring mindfulness into work
How do you become more mindful in the context of a busy workday? Here are some ways that the principles of mindfulness can be applied in the workplace:
1. Set short meditations or mindfulness reminders
In the busy workplace, finding time for a 30-minute meditation can be difficult. Therefore, you could incorporate short mindful exercises to consciously connect to that same essence. This may mean being creative about finding slots in the day and being disciplined in adhering to them. Some possible ways are using phone apps like Headspace, setting alarms on your phone as a reminder to take a mindful minute, or committing to the idea that every time the phone rings or an email is received, you take a mindful breath.
2. Focus consciously
Even though you might be used to your environment, you can start to be mindful in observing your environment more and paying attention to what goes on around you. This can be done by engaging all five senses:
- Feel the ground beneath your feet or the chair being sat on.
- Observe the surrounding objects.
- Notice any sounds you hear.
- Consider the surrounding scents and smells.
- Attend to each task with full attention.
Just as you would bring your attention back to your breath in meditation, if the mind starts to wander at work, acknowledge those thoughts and bring attention back to the task at hand.
Commit to single-tasking rather than multitasking as this curbs the addiction to switch from one thing to the next, and benefit from better focus and productivity.
3. Slow Down to Speed Up
Mindfulness at work may seem counterintuitive to the endless work demands, but research shows that slowing down can allow you to be more efficient, productive, happy, resilient, and healthy at work. Rushing all the time or sacrificing sleeping and eating means you will inevitably begin to drop balls. Short mindfulness exercises during the day support the brain in becoming more efficient and focused, just as shifting priority from rushing to pausing, breathing, and listening mindfully, will result in better health.
4. Restructure the idea of ‘stress’
Recent research shows that people experiencing high levels of stress but who believed that stress was good for them had among the lowest mortality rates. Whereas highly stressed people who believed that stress was bad for their health had the highest chance of dying.
Make stress a friend by changing your thoughts about it. In turn, the body’s response to it will change. This can be done by tuning in to the body and listening to its signals, or by focusing on gratitude in the workplace.
Similarly, if you are feeling like you are stuck on a task at work, or even in your job, you should think about restructuring this thought to what is going well and what lessons may be offered by it.
5. Accept growth opportunities
Acceptance means to accept this present moment just as it is and lies at the heart of mindfulness. Accept yourself, just as you are now, and acknowledge where you are at. In the workplace, this means relinquishing the idea of changing things that don’t work and instead, accepting the situation, talking to the necessary colleagues, and learning from mistakes. This will reduce the energy-draining self-criticism. In accepting and adopting mindfulness, you engage a growth mindset.
Mindfulness is about giving attention to the present moment and not judging. This allows being open to new possibilities.
The essence of mindfulness at work is believing that you can improve and grow with experience, moving towards challenges, living in the moment, and discovering new things about yourself and others.
Give your team the practical skills to become more mindful at work, as well as driving efficiency and productivity through our Mindfulness Practice Course.