Mindfulness at Work: Ensuring Attentiveness in Employees

Mindfulness is simply a profound awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings, and surroundings. It involves accepting these thoughts and feelings without second-guessing or believing that your internal responses are incongruous with a particular situation.

Why is mindfulness important in the workplace?

Through the years, many studies have indicated that one of the most significant sources of tension for American adults is workplace stress. Unfortunately, as a result, the rate of heart attacks, hypertension, and other disorders have increased.

Stack of documents on the desk and male employee working on background

 

Yet, being mindful can actually enable a person to make better life decisions, leading a higher quality of life in general.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph. D., is the founding Executive Director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is responsible for bringing the practice of mindfulness meditation into mainstream medicine, and has also proven that practicing mindfulness is beneficial to everyone.  According to Dr. Kabat-Zinn, there are significant advantages of mindfulness in the workplace

What are the benefits of mindfulness?

1.  It improves well-being.

  • Achieving satisfaction in life becomes easier.
  • It enables one to be fully engaged in activities and improves one’s ability to deal with adverse circumstances.
  • It keeps one focused on the present moment. When you are mindful, you do not worry about your past or what may come in the future.

2.  It improves physical health.

  • It helps relieve stress.
  • It improves the quality of sleep.
  • It reduces chronic pain.
  • It lowers blood pressure.
  • It eases gastrointestinal problems.
  • It may help reduce symptoms of heart disease.

3.  It improves mental health

Psychotherapists have discovered that mindfulness meditation can help in the treatment of certain mental health and behavioral issues such as:

  • Depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Relationship problems

What are some ways that workers can achieve a higher level of mindfulness at work?

1. Focus on the present.

As stated earlier, mindfulness means focusing on the present. When completing a task, you must offer your full attention to what you are doing, rather than listening to a “gossiping” colleague or imagining your post-work-day plans.

  • Make a conscious decision to focus on the present moment at the start of your workday.
  • Make this decision even if it means starting your work at an initial slower pace.
  • Motivate yourself by always focusing on the advantages of working mindfully.
  • Concentrate on what you are doing instead of getting lost in your thoughts while performing your responsibilities.
  • Pay attention even to simple tasks such as breathing or writing.

2.  Do short exercises to increase mindfulness.

Find time to do short exercises such as one minute of intentionally connecting with your senses. This will help you respond to situations differently. Instead of just reacting automatically to circumstances, you learn to respond in a better and reasonable way.

3.  Reduce multi-tasking

  • Perform tasks one at a time.  Rather than working on two or more jobs simultaneously, or switching back and forth between tasks, complete one task before moving on to another. In many cases, when it comes to increasing your level of mindfulness, multi-tasking is not effective. Yet, unfortunately, many still do consider it a more productive way of working.
  • Create a time journal of your accomplishments. Take note of the times when you multi-task and the times that you focus on a singular task. Make sure to also list what you have achieved during those times.
  • Check if your productivity increases when you perform a one task at a time. This can help motivate you to focus in a similar way, going forward.
  • Group your tasks into specific categories. For example, setting appointments and doing interviews could be in one category and emails and phone calls in another. Continue your work in accordance with these categories to the best of your ability.
  • Reduce distractions. Set your mobile phone on mute (if your situation allows) or limit checking your email to an hour or two in the morning. Subsequently, assess how much time you need to work and record how much you actually get done.
  • Practice mindfulness during your breaks. Relax, take deep breaths or go for a walk.

Related:  Employee Advice: Increasing Your Own Productivity at Work

4.  You need reminders to be mindful.

According to research by Harvard University, people spend 46.9 percent of their day thinking about something other than what they are actually doing. Unfortunately, the same study indicates that daydreaming can impact your well-being negatively. When complete tasks automatically, or without thinking, you may not recognize the opportunities that are surround you. Some of the following reminders can assist you in responding mindfully to common situations.

  • Set alarms if necessary. If you commonly find yourself “drifting”, set a vibrating alarm on your phone just to remind yourself to focus.
  • Mark your calendar. Utilizing the calendar on your mobile device or even a simple desk calendar will help you organize your appointments and reduce the stress of unexpected events.
  • Use visual markers.  Place a note or picture on your desk that you know will trigger the notion of mindfulness during the day.
  • Apply association techniques.  “Connect” activities such as meetings or lunch breaks with being mindful.

5.  Slow down to do more.

Often, individuals will make the mistake of rushing through tasks and projects with the belief that they are being more productive.  However, rushing can lead to mistakes and even bad decisions. Instead, practice pausing and listening; consider decisions and actions without the knee-jerk reaction of immediate implementation.

6.  Change your outlook on stress.

According to a recent study, your perception of stress can affect your health. Researchers found that people who had high levels of stress, but believed that stress was good for them, had a lower probability of dying. Yet, those who felt that stress was purely detrimental had the highest probability of dying from stress-related illnesses. Therefore, by changing the way you think about and approach life’s stresses, you also alter your body’s response to stress.

7.  Remain grateful.

A negative outlook is not exactly uncommon in the workplace. Having an attitude of gratitude will make you feel better and have a positive impact on your quality of work and working relationships.

8.  Stay humble.

Humility is not a sign of weakness. It is being aware that no matter how good you may be in achieving certain things, you acknowledge that this does not mean you are better than others. Being mindful involves accepting yourself as you are and being open to learning from other people.

  • Always remember the people who have helped you get to where you are now.
  • Show appreciation for people who help you, no matter how simple a task is.
  • Value the opinion of others. Take the time to listen other people even if they do not share your exact opinion or ideology.

9.  Learn to accept what you can’t change.

Discover how to accept the “here and now”. Mindfulness involves acceptance, not insolence. There are times when you must acknowledge the truth about certain things or situations. From there, you can learn from your mistakes and move forward.

10.  There is always room for growth.

There always those who choose to not look beyond what they already believe to be true or the knowledge they’ve previously acquired. Being mindful involves always being open to new possibilities. This also involves being open to both positive and negative feedback in order to grow from your experiences.

How does mindfulness affect productivity?

1.  It improves the quality of one’s work.

Mindfulness helps improve the quality of your output because you are more present and focused on the tasks you perform. Additionally, when you give a task your full attention, you will finish it quickly and more accurately.

2.  It prevents burn out.

One’s overall well-being can be positively impacted by mindfulness. In fact, research suggests that mindfulness training can improve immune system function; while also helping to  increase one’s resilience to stressful situations, thereby helping avoid burn-out.

3.  It helps you make better decisions.

Practicing mindfulness means you have a peaceful and accepting approach to the opinions and feedback of others. You do not rely solely on what you know. Consequently, you learn to make better decisions.

4.  It helps get the important things done first.

As stated earlier, multi-tasking may make you look productive, but in reality, doing one task at a time is often more effective. Mindfulness enables you to pause and think long enough to effectively prioritize your workload. This not only positively affects the quantity of completed work, but the quality as well.

Hands of employee making notes in notepad

 

How can business leaders attempt to create a culture of mindfulness in the workplace?

It is clear that a culture of mindfulness is beneficial to the work environment. However, mindfulness is not limited to meditation and being aware of one’s surroundings. It also involves being humble and listening to what your colleagues have to say even if you do not initially agree with their viewpoint.

Business leaders should foster an outlook of mindfulness within their organization, where the concept of self-interest is decreased for the sake of the greater good. It should be a place where everyone is willing to appreciate the impact of their co-workers’ contributions without feeling threatened.

When a culture of mindfulness is cultivated, “cliques and office politics” are reduced, and open and honest communication is encouraged.  Employees thrive more productively in a mindfully centered work environment, which ultimately leads to the success of the organization.

 

Fred Coon, CEO

 

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200