11 Aug The Importance of Mindfulness in the Workplace
Written by: Spela Bednjanic, BA Psychology
With a pile of papers, a long to-do list, a phone ringing, boss waiting for you to complete the work, you can get quickly overwhelmed. Practicing mindfulness in the workplace is important because as we do so, we reduce stress, and become more aware of ourselves and the environment we’re in, which helps us control our emotional response to the situation, acting faster and more efficiently.
WHAT IS MINDFULNESS IN THE WORKPLACE?
Mindfulness is the human ability to be fully present at the moment without any judgment of the situation. It means being attentive to your physical sensations, thoughts, and feelings without marking them as negative or positive. Although mindfulness is already a part of every one of us, it sometimes seems complicated to access it. Our mind wanders off in the past or makes assumptions about what the future holds for us, and we miss a moment that’s right in front of us.
The basic concept around mindfulness is self-awareness. You become more aware of yourself and your environment to control your emotions better and free yourself of the tendency to be overly reactive. This can help you manage stress better, improve your focus and productivity at work and even maintain friendly relationships with your colleagues.
THE IMPORTANCE OF MINDFULNESS IN THE WORKPLACE
Research shows a clear link between mindfulness techniques and the reduction of stress. However, practicing mindfulness also has many physiological benefits that contribute to better health, such as lower blood pressure, reduced chronic pain, improved sleep, and immune functioning. Besides many positive effects of mindfulness on an individual’s health, there are also many benefits for a more healthy and productive workplace.
Organizations started to invest their resources in the well-being of employees since bad mental health has bad outcomes for the employee’s health, productivity, and overall performance, which in turn affects the performance of the company itself. Absenteeism and presenteeism are real-time issues closely related to the stress and mental health of the employees.
Chronic stress weakens the immune system, making our bodies more susceptible to diseases. Moreover, long-term stress without proper interventions can lead to burnout. Practicing mindfulness improves the emotional resilience of the employees, helps them understand their own emotions, and the ability to influence them. With inevitable stressful periods in the workplace, resilient employees will persevere and stay productive without the stress leaving a major toll on their mental health.
Productivity & performance
Nowadays, we often hear about multitasking as a tool to get more work done at once. However, research shows we’re not actually multitasking; we are just switching between tasks. And since it takes us approximately 25 minutes to regain focus once we lost it, shifting focus from one task to the other all the time isn’t the best productivity-boosting strategy ever. So what actually counts is how long we can stay focused and productive to finish our tasks at work. Individuals who practice mindfulness have a better ability to focus and suppress distractions around them. In addition, practicing mindfulness also improves our information processing speed & increases our overall performance.
When people are less stressed out and more mindful, they can also be more creative. Creativity at work is crucial for effective problem solving and creating innovative solutions and products to help organizations thrive.
Healthy and constructive relationships at work are essential for the well-being and happiness of an employee. Positive relationships are the basis for more productive and altruistic teams of individuals who can perform on a higher level. Research has shown that the increased ability to be mindful causes a person to be less emotionally reactive, which results in improved handling of conflicts in the workplace. Moreover, practicing mindfulness also promotes empathy. This leads to improved communication between coworkers, which causes less stress for individuals and the organization.
BEST WAYS TO PRACTICE MINDFULNESS
There are many effective yet easy-to-implement ways to practice mindfulness. From meditation to breathing techniques, journaling to practicing gratitude – every strategy has its benefits for the health and overall well-being of the employee as well as the organization as a whole.
Mindfulness meditation is one of the most popular ways to practice mindfulness. It helps us notice the sensations in our body, be more aware of the environment around us, which can be calming and helps us relax. It’s also one of the best ways to get in touch with yourself and take some time off. In addition, meditation in the long term improves your ability to focus and boosts your overall cognitive functioning.
There are many different ways and types of meditation & many different apps available that can help you get started. In general, meditation begins with sitting comfortably in a quiet room, closing your eyes, and focusing on your breathing or different parts of your body. Start implementing a 5-10 minutes meditation practice into your everyday routine, and you’ll soon reap the benefits of it.
Breathing techniques are the easiest and most convenient way to practice mindfulness almost everywhere you go. You can practice those techniques at home, in the office, outside, or even on the bus when commuting to work. Focusing on breathing can help you reduce the stress levels in your body, lower your heart rate and blood pressure, improve depression & anxiety, and reduce the risk for burnout.
One of the best and easiest breathing exercises is just deep and focused breathing. Count to 4 as you inhale. Feel how the air is filling your body. Then hold your breath for 7 seconds. After that, exhale through the mouth and count to 8 seconds. You can repeat this cycle for as long as you want to feel calmer and more relaxed.
Journaling is a great way to be aware of what is happening in your environment, how you feel, what triggers certain feelings and thoughts, and how you react to certain situations. Regular journaling makes you reflect on the day and can help build up your ability to be more mindful.
Similar to journaling, writing down three things you’re most grateful for in a day creates a simple yet very effective routine that improves our mindfulness. Practicing gratitude helps us cherish the simple things in life instead of being stuck in the past or worrying about the future. This task takes less than 5 minutes per day and can improve our well-being immensely.