What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is certainly a buzzword in many workplaces right now, but what exactly is it and why do we need to be aware of it?
Originating in Buddhist thought, Mindfulness is a way of being. A way of being that can be practised in all aspects of daily life – including the workplace. Today, Mindfulness programmes are being created and adopted by sports, schools, workplaces and other environments as well as in the medical profession.
Although there are various definitions, Mindfulness is about creating an environment of being in the here and now and it is thought that this can then ease worrying and over thinking. This can then feed into giving a positive boost to people’s mental health.
Outside of the medical profession, schools have adopted Mindfulness programmes to improve children’s behaviour, communication with peers, creativity and ability to remain on task in the classroom. Sportspeople are adopting Mindfulness programmes to improve confidence, concentration and athletic performance.
And what about when it comes to Mindfulness in the workplace? A culture where Mindfulness is taught and encouraged is a step in the right direction for the wellbeing of staff with regards to reducing stress levels and increasing productivity. Having an effective Mindfulness programme in place can also have a positive impact on how your staff work as a team and communicate with each other.
What Are Benefits Of Mindfulness In The Workplace?
As an employer, if you decide to invest time and energy in encouraging Mindfulness in the workplace, what would be the payback from this?
There are multiple benefits from practising Mindfulness in the workplace. Whatever type of company or organisation you are part of, there will always be times when there are pressure situations. This could be trying to work to tight deadlines, staff feeling overwhelmed about the amount of tasks they need to do or professional and personal conflicts between members of staff.
We are all human beings and the stress caused from situations such as these can, at times, seem like it is the victor. However, a culture of practising Mindfulness in the workplace can help to alleviate that and create a happier, more motivated workforce and a calmer work environment.
Mindfulness in the workplace can reduce stress
How many employees in your workplace would admit to feeling stressed by their work? There is also a chance you have had members of staff who have needed to take time off work because of stress.
Practising Mindfulness can help towards combating stress. This can, in turn, reduce your staff absences and also boost productivity.
Workplace stress can be caused not just by workload or working hours; it can also be brought into the workplace from outside. Problems at home and other personal issues can cause your staff to feel stressed and this can affect their performance at work. Mindfulness is a tool that can help employees to manage these situations.
Mindfulness in the workplace aids creativity
If you are a company that operates in a creativity sector then an even more creative team of staff is obviously going to be of benefit.
But it is not just about traditionally creative roles. Mindfulness can improve creativity in all workplaces. Clearing the brain of clutter can mean that staff then have the ability to come up with innovative ideas and also tackle challenges from different angles. Because Mindfulness is about training the brain to be in the present, this aids the brain to think more freely.
Mindfulness in the workplace aids learning
Being in the present and not allowing other distractions to race through your mind means the absorption of new information becomes easier. This could be anything from staff learning new skills on courses in house or at training centres, to taking in the information from daily emails.
Being in the present also encourages staff to know the importance of taking their breaks. Taking time away from the desk or workstation allows the mind to rest and replenish so that when members of staff return, they feel refreshed and are able to absorb new information more easily and be more productive.
Mindfulness in the workplace improves communication
Effective communication in the workplace is hugely important, as you know. Practising mindfulness can have a positive effect on how you and your staff communicate with each other, how you communicate with peers within your trade or profession and how you deal with customers.
Practising mindfulness frees the mind. It blocks out distractions so that you can really listen to other people and this encourages empathy. It encourages an ability to show compassion and understanding where it is needed.
It means teams can listen to other people’s ideas and viewpoints, consider them and take them onboard. For you, as an employer.
Mindfulness can help you to better listen to your employees’ suggestions, issues and requests. Being empathetic and listening to such requests will make staff feel valued and that what they are saying is worthwhile.
Between your staff, Mindfulness can also help to prevent any clashes or gossip. Improved communication and empathy can mean a more amiable staff who work together for the common goal.
Mindfulness in the workplace helps to improve focus
Whether it is you as an employer or you have noticed the issue with some of your staff, distraction and procrastination in the workplace can contribute to feelings of stress, disorganisation and a reduction in productivity.
Practising Mindfulness can help to combat the temptation to procrastinate or the ease of being distracted. When the mind is focussed, this improves productivity and also gives staff and yourself the opportunity to feel the satisfaction of ticking off completed tasks.
Mindfulness can help to improve mental and physical health
A reduction in the number of staff taking time off work due to sickness means your team are fitter, healthier and more productive.
How To Encourage Mindfulness In The Workplace
Now we know the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace, what can you do as an employer to encourage it in your company or organisation? If you already have an effective Mindfulness programme in place, you could well be seeing the benefits, already.
If Mindfulness is something you are considering pursuing in your workplace, let’s consider some strategies you can implement so that Mindfulness is encouraged amongst everyone working there.
First of all, in case you are wondering, this is not about getting your staff into yoga poses each morning and burning incense. Of course, you can go down that route if that suits your company culture but for this article, we will look at some practical steps you can take to make your workplace a happier, more focused environment.
Convince your staff that Mindfulness is a valuable tool
Introducing a new programme to the workplace can be a challenge – especially if your staff are unsure about what the exact purpose of it is.
When you introduce Mindfulness, make sure they are aware of why you think it is a good idea – perhaps discuss it in staff meetings beforehand to get a feel for where your staff are at with the idea. Some may be already onboard with mindfulness as a way of living via their outside interests. They could even suggest some ideas.
Because Mindfulness is a way of being for the individual, it is something that should be encouraged amongst staff but not forced. If you have staff that seem wary of the idea at first, they may feel encouraged to try it when they see other staff and stimulus around the workplace that embrace it.
The more conversation you can have about Mindfulness, the better. Show your staff how big international companies are successfully using it. Teach them what Mindfulness is and help them to experience it. This could be done by getting an outside person in to talk about it and how it has helped them in their work.
Introduce mindfulness exercises in the workplace
Mindfulness exercises can be easily introduced into the workplace. Depending on the nature of your business, it can be something that staff can do individually at the start of their day otr, if everyone is onboard with Mindfulness and the workday starts at the same time for everyone, you could do a group exercise.
A popular exercise to do is a simple breathing exercise where you focus on deep slow breaths and concentrate on the sound and the feeling of that as you breathe in the air and picture it travelling to your lungs.
Breathing exercises can help to reduce stress.
Notice the little things around you
Mindfulness is about being aware of physical sensations. How often do you take time to notice the little things? The little things can be easily forgotten during a busy day at work. Mindfulness teaches us to take notice of physical sensations such as the feeling of soap and water on your hands or the feel of the carpet under your feet in the corridor.
Whatever type of sector you work in, it is completely possible to take note of those physical sensations. For chefs, it can be food ingredients and kitchen tools. If it is a desk job, it can be the feeling of the keyboard under your fingertips.
Concentrating on these physical sensations that are part of our daily life and that we can take for granted can calm a busy mind and help us to focus and concentrate.
Have a quiet space in the workplace
Having a designated quiet space for staff could be easier said than done for some companies. If you have the luxury of being able to offer a room or other environment for quiet time this can be a place where your staff can go to take some time out. Some may want to meditate. Some may just want to sit still, in silence, for a few minutes.
Quiet space is an environment where your staff can take time out to recharge. The space just needs to be big enough to lay down a yoga mat or place a chair. If you don’t have spare empty rooms, the space can be created with room dividers or by rearranging furniture.
This is something that can be discussed with staff so that they decide on the best solution. Encouraging staff to suggest solutions for quiet space means that once it is implemented, everyone will be aware that this is an area of quiet and needs to be respected as that.
Meditation practitioners suggest that just 5 minutes a day of quiet time really boosts concentration, improves sleep and helps concentration throughout the day.
Ensure regular breaks and lunch breaks are taken
Even if some of your staff are not completely onboard with the concept of Mindfulness, having a culture in the workplace where regular breaks and lunch breaks are taken is a practical measure that all can embrace.
How many times have you or your staff worked through your lunch break and perhaps eaten a sandwich while continuing your work. You barely even notice what is on the sandwich or what benefits the sandwich is providing for your body.
We have written before about the importance of staff taking regular breaks and using their holiday entitlement. This is about work-life balance and it also boosts the quality of work that is being produced.
For lunch breaks, encourage staff to take the full break, to eat slçowly and notice the food they are eating. If the area is suitable, encourage them to take a walk outside. Regular breaks are good for both physical and mental health.
Encouraging gratitude can train the brain to be more positive. Gratitude in the workplace could be a quick exercise that your staff can be encouraged to do just before their day or shift finishes. Five minutes or so can be spent on making a list of all the things that have gone well throughout the day.
Often, in the workplace, staff and yourself as an employer can get stuck in a rut of letting all the negatives stand out. Feeling stressed about a tight timeframe for a project, a feeling of too much to do, things not working out as planned.
Making a list of the positives can erase this negative thought and give a feeling of satisfaction. The list can include anything from replying to that email you’ve been putting off for a while, an extra tasty lunch, a nice comment from another member of staff. It doesn’t have to be completely work-related. Just any event that has happened during the day.
Do one thing at a time
For many workplaces, multitasking is part of the norm. Chances are, when you are writing your job ads for recruiting young people, being a good multitasker is one of the attributes that you list.
There will always be times when multitasking is necessary for many roles but when practising Mindfulness, encourage staff to make time in the day to focus solely on one task and make sure that task isn’t rushed. This is about focussing on the now, just on one thing, and enjoying that moment rather than worrying about other things that need to be done.
This can be built into the day by staff being organised and making a list of things that need to be done at the beginning of each day. The more important ones can be prioritised and staff then have that satisfaction of ticking off completed jobs and of being completely in the moment when doing those jobs.
Mindfulness In Life
Introducing Mindfulness to the workplace can be a huge benefit to you and your staff because Mindfulness doesn’t end when a person leaves the workplace. Over time, Mindfulness techniques will make their way into your daily life so that both your home life and work life are more fulfilling.