Mindfulness. More than a buzzword? Absolutely. With giants like Google, Target and General Mills investing in mindfulness, it’s time for all organizations to take a closer look.
What is Mindfulness?
So what is mindfulness? The first thing to realize is that the concept of mindfulness is not new. It’s an ancient mental methodology that enables you to control your attention, enhance your awareness and see things more clearly. In everyday terms, it’s a way to get out of “autopilot,” a mode that we easily fall into in our day-to-day lives. Instead, it’s a practice of consciously and deliberately directing our attention to the present moment, and experiencing it in a non-judgmental way.
But what’s the point? There are many studies that show the effect of mindfulness on the brain and various aspects of our work behavior. Here are the top four reasons mindfulness is important in the workplace:
Top Four Reasons Mindfulness is Important in the Workplace
1. Mindfulness Makes Us Happier
- The more mindful a colleague is, the lower an employee’s emotional exhaustion is.
- More mindful supervisors were also associated with employees having a better work-life balance, and overall job satisfaction.
- Employees are friendlier with co-workers, and help their team more.
2. Being Mindful Improves Decision Making
- Researchers wanted to see the effects of mindfulness on something called the “sunk cost fallacy”—the bias that we have to continue down the wrong path because we’ve already invested time and energy into it.
- Results: People with increased mindfulness had lower tendency to think in terms of sunk costs, indicating an increased ability to evaluate a situation and make a clear decision.
3. Being Mindful Helps You Focus on Tasks
- Mindfulness increases cognitive skills and attention, making employees better at juggling multiple things at once. This does not mean mindfulness makes us better at multitasking; it means that with multiple things to do, mindfulness helps us focus on what needs to be accomplished, and how to best execute the tasks.
4. Being Mindful Reduces Stress
- Office workers who practiced Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) for twenty minutes a day reported an average 11% reduction in perceived stress.
The benefits of mindfulness at work are pretty clear, but how do you actually incorporate mindfulness into your workday?
Easy Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness in Your Workday from Start to Finish
1. The Moment You Wake Up
Within minutes after waking, we release the most stress hormones of the day. When you wake up, take two minutes noticing your breath before checking email. Focus on your breath when your mind jumps to the day’s tasks. Set your alarm so you don’t fall back asleep.
2. When You Arrive at the Office
When you get to your office, boost your brain activity with 10 minutes of mindfulness practice. You can do this in your car before entering the office, or at your desk. Simply sit up straight, close your eyes, focus on breathing and count during inhale and exhale, trying to extend each. Remember, this is YOUR ten minutes before you have to focus on everyone else, so enjoy it!
3. Throughout the Day
Half a century of cognitive science research shows that multitaskers do less and miss information. In fact, when multitasking, our efficiency drops up to 40%! So throughout your day, resist the urge to multitask, and instead focus on one thing at a time.
It’s also important to take control of your email addiction. Why? Because it takes an average of 15 minutes to re-orient to a primary task after checking email. There’s a reason why we let email swallow up our day—sending an email tells our brain that it has completed a task, releasing dopamine (a pleasure hormone). But we all know not every email actually accomplishes something.
4. When Going to a Meeting
You can use mindfulness to keep meetings short with laser focus. First, spend two minutes focusing on breath and body movement on the way to meetings. Then, end meetings five minutes early to allow people to transition into the next meeting or task with mindfulness.
5. After Midday/Lunch
Set an alarm to go off every 90 minutes. When it goes off, spend one to five minutes practicing mindfulness. This can be as simple as sitting up straight and focusing on your breathing, or doing some light stretches.
6. On Your Commute Home
Instead of looking at your commute as a boring waste of time, look at it as a time to de-stress. Turn off your phone, and don’t listen to music or podcasts. Simply be, focus on your breath, and allow yourself to relax and recharge.
I challenge you to take these steps during your workday at least two times in the next week. Before you go to sleep each night, write what you noticed about your day. Were you more or less stressed? Were you able to focus? The more you practice mindfulness, the more improvements you will see in your mental and physical health, interpersonal relationships, and productivity at work.