Stressful work situations and negative emotions have the ability to burnout stellar employees and divert their energy away from productive tasks. Employers who promote mindfulness at work, will have employees who can more easily recognize those negative emotions and handle them in healthier ways.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of intentionally bringing awareness to the present moment. For those who practice, this means an increased awareness of yourself, others, and your workspace. Mindfulness enhances emotional intelligence and helps practitioners to recognize and mange their emotions internally and externally. It is no surprise that this could lead to lower levels of stress and anxiety. Additionally, it can cause increased levels of productivity and collaboration. Some studies also suggest additional benefits like lower blood pressure, reduced risk of heart disease, improved immune systems, and improved concentration.
How to promote mindfulness at work
Although mindfulness is frequently associated with mediation, it’s not the only method. Mindfulness can be incorporated in the workspace in many ways.
1. Offer time for daily intentions
Setting daily intentions is a way for employees to set themselves up for a successful day. Whether it is a work or personal goal it should be something positive – an intention should be an “I will” statement, not an “I won’t”. This could be something as simple as “Today I will be present”. Writing down an intention each morning, and keeping it somewhere easily in view can also serve as a reminder to check in during the day.
2. Endorse single-tasking
While many workers believe that multi-tasking makes them star employees, sometimes it does more harm than good. Often when employees tackle too much work at once they can become overwhelmed and aren’t able to complete tasks to the best of their ability. According to Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., "Multitasking is a brain drain that exhausts the mind, zaps cognitive resources and, if left unchecked, condemns us to early mental decline and decreased sharpness. Chronic multitaskers also have increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which can damage the memory region of the brain." Making a list of tasks to complete and prioritizing them by importance is a simple way to start single-tasking and prevent future burnout.
3. Encourage actual breaks
When there is work to be done, it is sometimes difficult for people to step away. Many people will grab their lunch and settle down to eat while they continue to work. Using a lunch break to step way and relax is actually helpful! Eating mindfully has physical and mental benefits. If attention is focused on the meal, it can be more relaxing and allows for an individual to notice when they are feeling full, instead of mindlessly eating. Additionally, mentally checking out for a short period of time helps employees to relax, reset, and recharge so they can continue to focus when they return.
4. Incorporate movement
Mindfulness is not only about getting in tune with your thoughts and emotions, but also about getting in tune with your body. Taking a moment to stand up, talk a walk, or stretch help bring awareness to your physical body. Employees should take note of any tightness, or soreness. They can then address it or adjust their workspace to care for their physical health.
5. Set aside weekly gratitude time
Gratitude and mindfulness tend to go hand in hand. Setting aside time each week for employees to share their personal and professional gratitude reinforces their mindfulness practice as they are more attuned to things in present life that they appreciate. Research also suggests that sharing gratitude with others can strengthen relationships. Sharing is a great opportunity for coworkers to come together and let each other know what they appreciate. Employers can encourage sharing at the start of staff meetings, or institute a gratitude Slack or Teams channel. Providing these opportunities is great way for employees to be mindful and empathetic.
There are a variety of ways to promote mindfulness at work for employers to choose from. The key is help provide an environment that prioritizes their attention in the moment. By doing so, employees are less at risk for stress, illness, and burnout.