Mindfulness and Wellbeing at work
These days it seems psychologists and health professionals are always going on about mindfulness and wellbeing at work. Well, yes, we are and with good reason too. The wellbeing benefits of mindfulness meditation are well documented and justify making mindfulness programs a public health priority.
But why should workplaces care about mindfulness? Beyond the health and wellbeing of individuals, can mindfulness contribute to a positive culture in workplaces?
What is Mindfulness meditation?
Mindfulness is a type of meditation where the individual focuses on being more present, and more intensely aware of what one experiences in the moment. This practice can be as simple as focussing on one’s breathing, or sensations in the body, with a calm acceptance. Other practices may include guided imagery to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress. These techniques have their origins in eastern practices such as Buddhism. However western practitioners, notably, Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn, (link) have presented techniques that emphasise the health and wellbeing benefits without the ‘esoteric’ aspects.
Mindfulness in the workplace
The are many flow-on benefits for organisations that embrace these wellbeing practices as part of their culture. More Fortune 500 companies are recognising the benefits of mindfulness programs in their workplaces and are providing regular programs for their employees. Current examples include Goldman Sachs, Google, Facebook and Nike, McKinsey & Company, Deutsche Bank and Apple.
Three reasons managers should care about Mindfulness
We can all agree wellbeing is important at work. When wellbeing is lacking, the costs to organisations associated with staff illness, absenteeism and staff turnover are well documented. In addition, there are the more hidden cost of employee disengagement and presenteeism.
Mindfulness training programs strengthen wellbeing and build resilience against stress and burnout. Studies have found such programs make employees happier, more engaged, and more likely to receive higher job performance ratings. The return on investment (ROI) for such increased wellbeing is considerable.
Unsurprisingly, mindfulness programs also benefit productivity. The mental and physical recovery of office workers, as with professional athletes, are all improved with mindfulness programs. Less well known are the benefits to quality of work. For example, studies show as we skip from one task to the next, we are left with reduced concentration for each new task. We suffer from what researchers call ‘attention residue.’ We might think we are getting a lot done. We may even pride ourselves on our ability to ‘multitask’. But when we look back at our day, we can barely remember what we achieved or how well we did it. Being busy is not the goal. Insects are busy. It is better to applying oneself with focus, clarity and purpose.
We all know how valuable creativity can be in the workplace. Mindfulness supports creativity by leading to improvements in problem-solving and increasing ‘divergent’ thinking; -a buzz word for creativity. Studies carried out with staff and senior executives show people generate more ideas, more creativity, and more lateral thinking after participating in brief sessions of mindfulness compared to control groups. In some of these studies the mindfulness sessions were of only 10 minutes duration, further supporting the economic case for such programs.
Researchers believe mindfulness increases creativity by making it easier to register and process the application of new ideas. It also increases self-confidence, which is the unspoken factor in creativity, given new ideas usually have to stand against inertia and skepticism.
Hosting your own Mindfulness program
With so many benefits associated with mindfulness more organisations are hosting their own programs for employees. Here are some simple guidelines to help you set up and maintain your own program.
If you don’t have the training or confidence to run sessions yourself, invite a mindfulness expert to provide a proper introduction to mindfulness. There are highly respected not-for profit organisations that offer such programs. Over time, you can use introduce apps like Smiling mind to take over the running of sessions.
Publicise the details and the start date of your program. Use promotional flyers or send emails.
Educate employees about the benefits. Distribute tips on how to integrate mindfulness into everyday life, and challenge them with an 8- week program.
Make it easy for people to attend. For example, regular lunchtime sessions are popular.
Ensure management support the program. People are more likely to attend when they see management taking the time to attend and support to sessions.
Additional Apps you may like to use
Bhuddhify This app offers a guided meditation on 14 different activities, so you can use it at work.
Calm is a wonderful app that offers you a lot of options. Firstly, there are guided meditation sessions you can listen to at work. Lots of people are using this app and they report feeling more inspired and motivated to continue pursuing their tasks.
We’d love to hear your experiences, leave us a comment below. If you have any queries or would like to get in touch you can reach us here
Ostafin BD, Kassman KT. (2012). Stepping out of history: mindfulness improves insight problem solving. Conscious Cogn. Jun;21(2):1031-6
Epel, E., Daubenmier, J., Moskowitz, J.T., Folkman, S., Blackburn, E. Can meditation slow rate of cellular aging? Cognitive stress, mindfulness, and telomeres. Ann N Y Acad Sci, 1172: 34-53.
Kersemaekers W, Rupprecht S, Wittmann M, et al. A Workplace Mindfulness Intervention May Be Associated With Improved Psychological Well-Being and Productivity. A Preliminary Field Study in a Company Setting. Front Psychol. 2018;9:195. Implement and enable: