Mindfulness can be a useful practice in the workplace, helping individuals, teams, and businesses reach their personal and professional goals. But what exactly is mindfulness? And how can it benefit you and your company?
When people think of mindfulness, they often think about breathing exercises, meditation, and stillness. While these things are indeed valuable, being mindful is about more than just breathing: it’s about being present and aware in the moment in order to cultivate a clear, focused mind.
The Harvard Business Review describes mindfulness as “the choice we make to be present in the here and now: This moment, in this meeting, with this person or group of people.” Being mindful, then, is about your personal wellbeing as well as the wellbeing of others in your environment—including the workplace.
It’s not just a fad, either: scientific research supports the claim that mindfulness improves mental and physical wellbeing. Studies have also proven that mindfulness leads to higher productivity and increased retention in the workplace, making it advantageous for employers.
Mindfulness might be a current buzzword in business and wellness movements today, but the practice has been around for more than 2,500 years, rooted in ancient Buddhism. In the 1990s, Jon Kabat-Zinn popularized the concept in the West. Since then, mindfulness has become a large movement—and industry. But you don’t need to hire an expert to see the benefits of mindfulness in your workplace.
Benefits of Mindfulness for Employees and Businesses
When employees practice mindfulness, it benefits them personally and professionally.
Mindfulness can help individuals:
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Enhance your memory
- Improve your emotional regulation
- Hone your focus (whether on work tasks or something else)
- Strengthen your relationships
- Improve your mental health
- Boost your physical health (mindfulness can lower your heart rate and reduce health risks)
When employees practice mindfulness, employers also benefit, often giving businesses a competitive edge in the marketplace.
By helping workers to be more focused, mindfulness helps:
- maximize employee productivity
- reduce errors and increase effectiveness
- increase efficiency in meetings
- improve relationships across the company
Feel like you have no time to implement mindfulness into your daily life or company culture? Mindfulness isn’t about adding tasks to your to-do list: it’s about being present and attentive in every part of your day.
How Do I Practice Mindfulness?
Calm—the meditation-focused software company—provides suggestions for how mindfulness can impact us throughout the day. Practice mindfulness in each task you take on, such as when you interact with your inbox, prepare presentations, participate in a meeting, and carve out focused work time.
The term “mindful” itself is helpful here: the trick to practicing mindfulness is to be aware and attentive to your body, your surroundings, and others sharing your space.
Remember, too: Mindfulness isn’t something you achieve, but something even an expert continues to practice. There’s no pressure to get it right.
Practicing mindfulness independently:
- Pause to notice your breath. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. When thoughts or concerns come to mind, accept them, then return your focus to your breath. Tip: Try different breathing exercises!
- Starting from your toes working up, focus on the sensation you feel in different areas of your body. Are your shoes pressing against your toes too tightly? Can you feel your socks against your ankles?
- Notice what you are experiencing via your senses. What do you feel, see, hear, smell, taste? What do you notice about your environment? What thoughts keep coming your way?
- Take a moment to reflect on your current state of mind before a meeting. Are you hungry or tired? Are you stressed about the meeting that came before, or a task you just stepped away from? Honor these physical and psychological states, but set them aside so you can be focused, attentive, and regulated when you connect with others.
Practicing mindfulness when connecting with others:
- Notice where your thinking trails. Is your mind going elsewhere when a colleague is speaking during a meeting? Acknowledge when that happens, then bring your focus back to the speaker.
- Avoid multitasking. While you might think it helps you to accomplish tasks more quickly, it splits your attention, impacting your relationships with others and increasing the risk of errors and miscommunication. Plus, even if you are in a virtual space, others will notice that you are distracted.
- Practice active listening. Are you being present with the person speaking, or are you waiting for the chance to jump in to share your own thought? If you are having trouble holding yourself back from interrupting, try writing down your idea and setting it aside until there is space for you to bring it up. Take a deep breath before jumping in.
- Lift up others in your community. If you catch yourself critiquing others (even silently) or focusing too much on your own ego, pause and take a deep breath. Assume best intentions. Ask questions instead of offering immediate challenges, which may help the other person feel heard and respected.
When you are more present in your workplace, it encourages others to be as well. Together, you can enhance your company culture and improve your team’s efficiency.
How can my business help employees be more mindful?
Structural and cultural changes within a workplace can help support individual mindfulness practice. Here are 3 ideas to get your business started:
Create a Wellness Room in Your Office
Employers can support employees in mindfulness by establishing a space for employees to take a break, mediate, or tend to personal health needs.
At TempWorks, our wellness room is equipped with a comfortable chair, a refrigerator, a phone charging station, snacks, water, a noise machine, and headphones for quiet music.
Create Space for Transitions
When we run from appointment to appointment, or switch from one task to another, we are often unfocused and distracted. Before going into a meeting or switching tasks, carve out a couple of minutes to practice mindfulness.
Consider ending meetings 5-10 minutes before the hour to allow participants the time and mental space to transition to their next task.
Start a Monthly Mindfulness Challenge
Employees and employers alike can initiate a mindfulness challenge in the workplace. Doing so helps build community and encourage mindfulness within the company culture.
Our Culture Committee at TempWorks initiated a mindfulness challenge for the month of September. We followed a calendar with inspiration for practicing mindfulness throughout the month.
What’s one thing you can do to be more mindful in your day-to-day work life?