Mindfulness has the power to transform a work environment where stress, office conflict and endless to-do lists can often feel overwhelming.
Mindfulness is about being completely present in the moment and observing your thoughts and feelings as you experience them, without judgement. It doesn’t necessarily mean you need to meditate for hours in the office breakroom to reap the benefits of this ancient practice.
BENEFITS OF MINDFULNESS IN THE WORKPLACE
Engaging in just a few simple mindfulness practices can have positive outcomes in your workday, from strengthening team relationships to supercharging productivity.
Lower stress levels
Chronic stress is toxic to our bodies. The effect of stress on our nervous system has been studied for decades and research has shown sustained stress levels can wreak havoc on emotional and physical wellbeing. For many, the workplace is a common source of smaller, daily stressors that over time can really chip away at our physical and emotional resilience.
The result? Reduced mental alertness, lack of motivation, trouble concentrating, conflict with coworkers and reduced productivity. In the big picture, too many stressed out employees impact the organisation’s overall performance.
Mindfulness can help in a big way. Whether you’re a CEO running the show or working in a call centre dealing with disgruntled customers, mindfulness is your secret weapon for managing high-pressure situations. Practising mindfulness can help regulate thoughts, emotions and reactions even in the midst of stressful situations.
Improve focus + bounce back from distractions
A busy workplace can be full of distractions and interruptions. Research has revealed people working in interrupted conditions tend to have higher workloads which contribute to increased levels of stress and frustration.
Incorporating regular mindfulness practices into your day can help you hone your focus and quickly regroup after a distraction.
A study by Italian neuroscientist Giuseppe Pagnoni, published in the Journal of Neuroscience compared the brain patterns of people who had been practising meditation for 5 years or more with those who didn’t meditate.
The results revealed those who consistently meditated had greater focus; they had better control of their ventral posteromedial cortex. That’s the part of the brain that can wander and ruminate, which often happens after a stream of interruptions has pulled you away from your key task.
Improve leadership skills
Workplace meditation and mindfulness practices have been embraced by some of the world’s most successful organisations like Apple and Google.
Through practising mindfulness, you are able to observe your body’s physical and mental state objectively and make intentional, rational responses. This quality in a leader is key when it comes to making difficult business decisions and setting strategic goals.
Embracing mindfulness will also help you interact with your team in a more considerate, positive way. Great leaders have the ability to step back from an emotional or complex situation and effectively deliver their thoughts. Communicating in this way can encourage a productive output from your team and boost morale, even in difficult periods.
Clear communication is also key when guiding the team on realising your long-term vision and managing change.
Creativity is an invaluable asset for organisations. A creative team brings innovative solutions, effective design processes and ideas for new products to the table.
Creativity doesn’t usually flow in a stressed out, tense state.
A relaxed state of mind fosters creativity; which is why we often think up our best ideas in the shower! When we’re relaxed, we look at challenges from different perspectives, opening us up to a wider range of solutions and ideas.
Mindfulness can induce a more relaxed, happier state of mind. Less emotional energy is spent on stress and anxiety, leaving more mental space for creative thinking to thrive.
SIMPLE WAYS TO PRACTICE MINDFULNESS IN THE WORKPLACE
In addition to meditation, mindfulness practices include stretching, breathing and observation exercises. Here are a few simple techniques to incorporate mindfulness into your workday.
Spend 1 minute focusing on your breathing
This quick mindfulness practice is perfect for dealing with the aftermath of being interrupted. When you’re feeling distracted, spend one minute focusing all your attention to your breathing.
No loud or super deep breathing required; you can do this at your desk. Just breathe normally but pay full attention to each breath, holding it in and letting it go.
Then get back to the task at hand. This practice helps strengthen the brain’s neural circuitry for focus.
Take a brief meditation break at lunch
Both apps have short, guided meditation and mindfulness exercises, perfect to squeeze into a lunch break.
Tweak your morning routine
Tweak your morning routine to get into a mindful vibe before you arrive at the office. It could be as simple as incorporating a quick stretch into your AM routine. Stretching allows us to slow down and really tune into our bodies.
Or, instead of gulping down your tea or coffee, spend 5 minutes mindfully sipping it. Focus all your attention on savouring the flavour and the warmth of the mug in your hands.
Embrace the simplicity of single-tasking
While the art of single-tasking isn’t an easy one to master, it yields results. Mentally, you’re more present and in terms of productivity, research shows single-tasking is more effective than multitasking.
Don’t feel overwhelmed by the idea that single-tasking means tackling a whole project in one sitting. Break up larger projects into slots of time where you focus only on that project. Following the Pomodoro Technique is a great way to get started on building a habit of single-tasking.
Be an active listener
Actively listen and pay close attention when your colleague speaks to you. It not only flexes your mindfulness muscle by focusing on the moment and quieting your mind to other thoughts, but it also ensures clearer and more efficient communication.
The TEDx talk, the Power Of Listening is an inspiring reminder about the impact of really, mindfully listening to each other.
Set boundaries to switch off outside work hours
Creating intentional space between your work life and personal life is a powerful boundary to put in place. This carves out space to build mindful practices into your life; for example morning meditation or an evening walk with no devices. Giving yourself downtime means when you are at work you’ll be present and clear-minded, not tired and stressed because you were up until 1am answering work emails.