How to Practice Mindfulness at Work
While mindfulness has its roots in ancient Buddhist philosophy and religion, it has recently gained popularity in the corporate world. Companies such as Apple, Deutsche Bank and General Mills have instituted mindfulness programs for its employees. Nurtured through the practice of sitting meditation, mindfulness helps individuals become unconditionally present. Proponents believe its benefits include the reduction of work-related stress and increased productivity–as well as happiness. So how do you practice mindfulness and incorporate it into your workday? Read on to find out.
What is mindfulness?
Jon Kabat-Zinn, a famous teacher of mindfulness meditation and the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, defines mindfulness as follows:
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”
It is essentially the practice of living in the now through techniques such as meditation, breathing exercises and gentle yoga.
What are the benefits of mindfulness at work?
Some of the benefits attributed to mindfulness include:
- Reducing employee absenteeism and turnover
- Improving cognitive functions (i.e., concentration, memory, and learning ability)
- Improving employee productivity
- Improving complex problem-solving and decision-making
- Enhanced leadership
- More emotional intelligence and less reactive
- Enhancing employer/employee and client relationships, and
- Improving job satisfaction.
In his recent book, “Mindful at Work”, reporter (and 15 year veteran of meditation) David Gelles explores how what was once viewed as more of a New Age practice has become mainstream in recent years due to its ability to bring clarity, purpose, and self-awareness to all our experiences.
Gelles, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, stated that mindfulness in the workplace can have a financial impact on companies
“I think the real counterargument is that there are monetary gains [with mindfulness]. For example, when Aetna rolled out its big mindfulness program, after the first full year, they saw out-of-pocket healthcare costs go down. In other words, they found cost-savings to introducing these programs. It wasn’t a drag on the bottom line, it was a boost to it.”
How are companies promoting mindfulness?
According to Gelles, approximately one fourth of all major American employers now deliver some version of stress reduction. Some examples include:
Apple allows employees to take 30 minutes each day to meditate at work, provides on-site classes on meditation and yoga and offers the use of a meditation room.
Nike employees have access to relaxation rooms, which they can use to take a nap, pray, or meditate. The company also offers meditation and yoga classes.
Deutsche Bank and Procter & Gamble both offer meditation classes and on-site quiet spaces.
- At Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, workers begin shifts with breathing exercises designed to focus them on the task at hand and clear their minds of distractions.
When implementing a mindfulness program, employers should ensure that it remains voluntary. Some may perceive it as a spiritual or religious practice and therefore no employee should be required to participate. Failure to do so could open a company up to discrimination claims.
How can I practice mindfulness at work?
Danny Penman, author of Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World suggests the following:
Practice strategic acceptance. Rather than forcing yourself to cheer up or calm down when stress levels rise, try accepting the way you currently feel before making a plan to improve how things are.
Try a three-minute breathing space. Two to three times a day, sit at your desk or quiet space and take three minutes to stop what you’re doing, inhale and exhale deeply and focus your attention fully on the breath and then the body as a whole.
Tune into distraction around you. Rather than trying to tune out distractions around you, gently notice the sounds and see if you can become aware of the effects they have on your body. This may help to prevent them from stressing you out.
Step away. Leave your desk for several shorter breaks during the day and consider taking a technology-free lunch break. These breaks can boost productivity and creativity.
- Go device-free. Try taking short technology breaks at work and setting aside an afternoon or full day away from technology during the weekend.
Should you have any questions related to your work environment, please contact us online or call our offices at (561) 653-0008. At Scott • Wagner and Associates, P.A., our approachable and knowledgeable attorneys are dedicated to providing skilled legal representation for your unique situation.