Mindfulness in the Workplace: The Key for Enhancing Employee Wellbeing?
Emails, text messages, slack notifications, memos, deadlines, meetings, reviews, timesheets, conferences, phone calls, video calls—at any given time in the modern workplace, there are endless things clamoring for our attention. It’s enough to make your head spin.
Unfortunately, this reality isn’t likely to change any time soon. What can change, however, is our ability to manage the stress of it all. The consequences of failing to do so are huge. These feelings of overwhelm at work lead to stress, burnout, presenteeism, and poor worker retention.
Enter mindfulness, a practice that’s exploded in popularity across top workplaces around the world—and for good reason. When introduced appropriately, mindfulness in the workplace has the ability to help employees achieve higher levels of wellbeing, counteracting many of the modern stressors that threaten productivity.
Still, mindfulness is highly misunderstood. Here’s everything you need to know about mindfulness in the workplace and how it can transform employee wellbeing.
What is mindfulness?
For many people, “mindfulness” is a foreign idea, perhaps something tied to religion or ancient meditation. In reality, mindfulness is a very simple concept that anyone can practice anywhere.
How is mindfulness different from meditation?
Although similar, mindfulness and meditation don’t necessarily refer to the same thing. Whereas mindfulness is the act of encouraging awareness of the present moment, meditation is the practice of calming your mind to eliminate distracting thoughts.
Although there are subtle differences between them, both mindfulness and meditation can bring positive changes to your workplace.
What are the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace?
The stressors of today’s workplace have many HR leaders looking for ways to help overburdened employees find balance. Mindfulness practices have shown enormous promise in improving employee wellbeing across several dimensions. Here are just a few of the many benefits mindfulness offers practicing employees.
Reduced Workplace Stress
Stress can have a direct impact on any employee’s wellbeing, mental health, and productivity. Studies on mindfulness in the workplace show promising results in reducing this stress, with one Cleveland study showing a 31% decrease in stress and 28% increase in vitality after workers completed an online mindfulness program.
Reduced Risk of Stress Related Illness and Disease
Mindfulness has been shown to lower the cortisol levels in the blood, a hormone linked to certain conditions like psychiatric disorders, peptic ulcers, and migraines. More than just a mental exercise, mindfulness has the potential to improve employees’ physical wellbeing too.
Research has shown that engaging in regular mindfulness practices has the power to change the development of individuals’ brains. One such study found that mindfulness increased regional gray matter density in some participants, the part of the brain responsible for learning and working memory capacity. This neurological change leads to greater focus and mental clarity.
If you want employees to think more creatively, then start thinking mindfulness. The practice can lead to improvements in insight problem solving as well as promote divergent thinking. And, the more regularly someone practices mindfulness, the more likely they are to come up with bold, creative ideas.
Stronger Personal and Professional Relationships
Mindfulness helps individuals become more in touch with themselves, which in turn helps them become more in touch with others. Mindfulness practice leads to significant improvements in work relationships and friendships as participants become stronger at communication and empathy.
How to Introduce Mindfulness into the Workplace
Now that we’ve covered what mindfulness is and why it’s important, the natural next question is: How can I bring it to my organization?
Even if you’re new to mindfulness yourself, there are plenty of ways to introduce it into the workplace so you and your team can reap its benefits. To get you started, check out these four strategies that you can implement almost immediately:
1. Start a morning breathing practice
Before you begin working each day, carve out 5-10 minutes for a dedicated time to practice deep breathing. During this window, close your eyes and pay attention to your breath. Intrusive thoughts will naturally begin to creep in, especially if you’re just starting out. When they do, gently return your focus to your breath. Use this time to begin noticing other sensations around that you normally may be blind to, such as the feeling of your feet on the floor, the sound of a ticking clock, or the smell of your morning coffee.
The best part about this strategy? It’s easy to introduce and encourage employees in your workplace to complete. And, it only takes 5 minutes a day—everyone has that much time to spare.
2. Collaborate with your EAP to develop a mindfulness program
Your organization’s employee assistance program should serve as a helpful resource for introducing mindfulness in the workplace. When working with a comprehensive EAP like Carebridge, you can develop a program that’s tailored to the culture and needs of your specific organization. These programs could look like extended seminars, digital meditation tools, or asynchronous resources disseminated to your team.
3. Introduce a “quiet space”
If your organization convenes in-person, consider dedicating a space in your office environment as a “quiet space” — a zone where individuals can go to recharge, recenter, and renew their focus.
4. Institute mandatory staff breaks
Burnout and workplace stress are at an all time high. Especially for overcommitted, high performing employees, taking breaks often feels like a barrier to their success. In reality, the long-term benefits of taking time away from work are enormous.
During a predetermined period of each day, consider setting a mandatory break for your employees. This block should appear on everyone’s calendar to encourage time away from screens, work, and deep thinking. These breaks create a baked-in opportunity for employees to reconnect with themselves, away from the hustle and stress of work, which is at the very heart of mindfulness.
Keep Employee Wellbeing Top of Mind
Above and beyond mindfulness practices, today’s employees need comprehensive support. Help employees be more present at work by offering them services from Carebridge EAP, a comprehensive suite of support that puts people first. To learn more, connect with a member of our team today.