For employers seeking better employee health, productivity, and improved cognitive and leadership ability, there may be a single answer: hurry up and slow down. Slow down and focus, that is. Studies increasingly support findings that a healthy dose of mindfulness, mindful meditation, and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction can improve a spectrum of workplace ills, including flagging productivity, absenteeism, and burnout. Across the U.S., mindfulness programs are proving to be an essential part of workplace improvement initiatives.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing awareness to the present moment. The practice of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR, specifically focuses on reducing daily stress and anxiety. Practicing mindfulness using meditation techniques and through MBSR, even in just 5 or 10 minute increments, helps us bring our attention back to a focal point where we are calmer and more focused. The practice trains the brain to sustain attention throughout the day, which can make us more effective and efficient when it comes to daily tasks.
Integrating mindfulness in the workplace began to draw attention in Silicon Valley, where it was popularized by forward-thinking CEOs in an effort to enhance their creative thinking and get the most out of their employees. The modern brain is subject to major multi-tasking and distraction, and for many of us, the workplace is where these habits flourish. New studies indicate mindfulness can improve overall cognition, teamwork skills, leadership, and communication, creating the right conditions for a more effective more successful workplace. Today, mindfulness programs are being implemented in businesses from coast to coast, across a variety of industries. (Read the most recent studies on the benefit of mindfulness practice in the workplace in Science Daily.)
Better Work Through Mindfulness
“Imagine finding ways to help your staff reduce stress, improve the clarity of their thinking, and cut down on the reactivity that people tend to have in the workplace. Imagine improving people’s overall health and energy levels,” Tim Blair told Bonney Staffing. Blair is a Systems Consultant for Nonprofit Organizations and owner of Blair Nonprofit Advisors in Maine. He is also an instructor of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Program. Introducing mindfulness into the workplace is a low cost investment with a high rate of return, he said. “These are all things that not only improve the work culture of an organization but could have a direct impact on the creativity and quality of the work that people do together.”
For the workplace as a whole, that can translate into improved customer service, more effective meetings, even improved on-the-job safety. And, when workers are engaged and have focused attention, productivity improves. One example of manufacturing company facing a financial downturn implemented mindfulness training workshops to help employees prevent stress and burnout and make better use of their time. The company set about finding a way for workers to work better, and found one – simply by improving the way they stayed with the task at hand.
Part of the training included tips on maintaining focus when it came to simple daily tasks and activities, like answering email and attending meetings. As a result of their efforts, workers stayed on task, prioritized better, and worked more efficiently, which in turn eliminated redundancies, improved worker performance, and increased productivity.
According to Blair, research has shown that people who participate in the 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program enjoy many of these benefits. As an alternative to formal workshops, some workplace programs provide short, actionable tips on the job to directly integrate mindfulness practices into the workday – things that can be done while walking to a meeting, for example. No matter what your approach to mindfulness, better health, lower stress, higher productivity, and overall efficiency may be just a 5-10 minutes away.
Workplace Mindfulness Primer
1. Begin the day by noticing the sensations of the breath for several seconds before jumping out of bed.
2. Eliminate the radio or phone from your drive time.
3. Eat lunch with focus – enjoy food’s tastes, smells and colors.
4. Take Purposeful Pauses. Sit in your car, walk to meetings without your phone, or sit at your desk just focusing on your breathing. (via Entrepreneur Magazine)