Kabat-Zinn defines mindfulness as “paying attention in the present moment, non-judgmentally”.
Mindfulness is a proven methodology for enabling this balance. It has already had a big impact on the modern workplace; implemented by some of the most successful companies around, it is increasingly seen as an antidote to modern workplace issues and a way to promote positive wellbeing.
We spend so much of our lives at work, as individuals it is important that we approach the inevitable opportunities, achievements, conflicts and challenges with open minds and a healthy outlook.
Mindfulness In the Workplace
Employers have a complex balancing act in promoting the wellbeing of individuals as well as the performance of the organisation.
Not that long ago, meditation was seen widely as the preserve of hippies and saffron-clad monks, unsuited for the business world. Nowadays, a growing number of businesses are recognising what mindfulness has to offer, including Transport for London (TfL), GlaxoSmithKline, the Home Office, the Cabinet Office, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers.
The Mindful UK Report by the Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group uses evidence from experts across several sectors, who have implemented mindfulness and directly seen beneficial results. The report highlights where policy makers should be investing resources and focussing their attention. Read full report here.
Benefits of Practising Mindfulness in the Workplace
Benefits include improvements to physical and mental health, with an increased ability to be resilient and manage stress. For employers, this translates into higher productivity and reduced sickness absence levels, among other things.
Other benefits include heightened emotional intelligence, improved decision-making and strategic-thinking abilities, a heightened ability to focus and enhanced creativity.
High- profile global corporations such as Google have publicised their extensive commitment and promotion of mindfulness. Business leaders such as media magnate Arianna Huffington have made available the considerable resources of her media business to promote mindfulness as well as her own personal story of how it has helped her.
For business owners who don’t yet understand the importance of taking a pro-active approach to mindfulness in the workplace, the most pressing consideration is the rising number of work-related mental health cases.
Absence Caused by Stress
Since 2009 the number of sick days lost to stress, depression and anxiety has increased by 24% and the number lost to serious mental illness has doubled. The leading cause of sickness absence in the UK is mental ill health, accounting for 70 million sick days, more than half of the 130 million total every year. Each year between 2010 and 2014, a million people took sick leave for longer than four weeks. (Source: The Mindful Living Show).
There is plenty of evidence, including from the mental health arena and the field of neuroscience, showing how mindfulness can help reduce stress.
Mental ill health is an issue of huge significance to the long-term economic prosperity of the country as well as impacting directly on thousands of lives. There have been major reports on how to improve wellbeing at work with recommendations including fair pay, clearly defined roles, job security and good management.
Some remain sceptical and believe that mindfulness is just the latest fad, while others are unaware of the benefits or fear being labelled as unprofessional.
Developing these skills help people become more engaged in their work, more energised and less anxious, and they suffer from fewer symptoms of stress, according to the Mental Health Foundation.
But how do you become more mindful?
Shakira Joyner, MD at HCHR explains how, “practising mindfulness helps us develop the “attentional control” that is important in resilience and high performance. Firstly, as an individual, you can start of by choosing something that you do every day, such as travelling to work or eating lunch and breakfast, and be sure to be entirely present when doing it. Usually during these activities you will find that your mind will always wander, and you will start to think about things that you need do this week, or situations that occurred last week, but you should try to be acutely aware of when this happens and bring your mind back to the present. Concentrate as much as possible on the present moment and take the opportunity to really explore everything that is happening in that moment.
“On this individual level, it is easy to see how mindfulness really can aid concentration and reduce stress levels. However, as an employer you might want to consider how you might introduce the concept of mindfulness into the workplace. You might think about short weekly sessions to include all employees, a rotational schedule for different teams to practice mindfulness together, or you might think about attending a mindfulness course or seminar.
“There might be an inherent fear in the workplace that mindfulness means doing ‘nothing’, but there is no reason why you can’t label it something and incorporate it into current training or development systems. Above all you need to be able to include it in the workplace in a way in which it fits in with the way you already operate and be realistic about how things will progress.
“As an employer, you have a certain responsibility for your employees’ mental and emotional wellbeing in the workplace. Practicing mindfulness could be the solution.”
“My personal experience is that mindfulness helps people cope with change and uncertainty, avoid rigid or scattered thinking and become more comfortable with not knowing. It improves a person’s ability to respond rather than react and to think more clearly and strategically.”
For help and guidance on how to introduce mindfulness into your workplace, then call HCHR on today on the number below: