There are many reasons why mindfulness training in the workplace is important. Holding a mindfulness workshop in the workplace can have a variety of benefits, all of which can lead to better productivity.
So, why should you consider holding mindfulness training programs at work? Let’s discover the benefits of mindfulness training in the workplace below.
What Is Mindfulness and What Is It not?
Before we delve into the benefits of mindfulness training in the workplace and how it can be applied, it is useful to understand first what mindful is and what it is not.
Mindfulness can be considered as a combination of mental attitudes, which are developed through practice.
There are 3 main attitudes that mindfulness fosters:
Focusing on the Present
This is the ability to focus on what is happening in front of us right now and be present in the moment.
Focusing on the present allows us to appreciate everything as though we are seeing the world around us with new eyes and to develop a sense of curiosity for every small thing.
By focusing on the present, we also get away from negative thoughts about the past or the future. These are things that either have already happened and we can do nothing about or they may never even happen at all.
Focus on the present is developed through meditation and other practices that involve concentrating on something (for example an object, our body, our breath, sounds, etc) and brushing away gently other thoughts that distract us.
Mindfulness concentration involves all the senses. For example, one exercise can involve observing an object and noticing all its details, another one can be about listening to a particular sound, or tasting some food, or being aware of one’s posture and feelings in the body.
The key though is to really concentrate on one thing at a time and notice every nuance and detail of that object/experience.
Compassion at Self and Others
Compassion is aimed both at the self and at other people. So, mindfulness promotes an attitude of appreciation for what is good in everyone, trying to see things from other people’s perspectives and listening carefully to what is being said.
There are mindfulness exercises that are aimed at developing compassion and self-compassion through appreciation.
Detachment from Negative Emotions
Detachment does not mean not caring. It just means putting things into perspective.
So, it means letting go of negative emotions, judgment, things that make us suffer by acknowledging their existence but taking time to distance ourselves from them.
People can practise detachment with the same exercises used to develop focus. So, if wandering thoughts come to your mind as you are trying to focus, the idea is to acknowledge them and then gently let them go and take the mind back to the thing you are trying to focus on.
What Mindfulness Is not
- Mindfulness is not a religious practice, even though it has its roots in Buddhism.
- Mindfulness is not about emptying your mind of thoughts. It is instead about focusing and be present in the moment.
- Also, mindfulness is not just about meditation or simply focusing on the breath. There are many other ways in which mindfulness can be practiced. Even while standing in a queue, for instance, you can practise mindfulness by becoming aware of how your body is feeling or by paying attention to the sounds or the sights around you.
- Mindfulness is not about daydreaming. Quite the opposite, it is about being aware of what is happening in the moment.
Key Benefits of Mindfulness Training in the Workplace
1. It Can Improve Staff’s Well-being and Resilience
Through the practices of detachment, focus and self-compassion, mindfulness can help people manage stress better and feel calmer. Also, through mindfulness practice, individuals learn how to recognise the symptoms of stress and deal with them before it is too late.
As stress can have devastating effects on people’s health, both mental and physical, managing stress can dramatically improve health.
If staff feel better, they are less likely to suffer from burnout and they are less likely to need to take days off sick. Absenteeism, presenteeism (i.e. coming to work even if you are sick) and turnover associated with stress come at very big costs for businesses.
For example, a study carried out in Japan (Nagata et al., 2018) found out that absenteeism cost Japanese companies $520 per person per year and presenteeism $3,055 per person per year. This was just a small-scale study, but it is just one example of what is a big problem for business.
So, if mindfulness can help improve staff’s health, it is worth holding mindfulness workshops at work and/or implementing mindfulness as part of your organisation’s culture.
2. Increase Productivity
Mindfulness training can improve productivity at work, as well as staff’s wellbeing, as shown in a recent research project by Kersemaekers et al. (2018).
Productivity improves, overall, because staff tend to be happier if they embrace mindfulness ideas.
In particular though, by promoting focus, mindfulness helps people concentrate on one task at a time thus achieving a state of flow.
So, instead of feeling stressed and worrying about 100 things at the same time, employees should immerse themselves in the task at hand and deal with it one step at a time. If concentration levels are better, costly errors are also likely to decrease.
3. Improve Leadership Skills
Mindfulness workshops are also good for team leaders and managers, as mindfulness can improve leadership skills.
One way in which mindfulness can improve leadership skills is because it trains the mind to be detached.
As a result, leaders who practise mindfulness can become better at observing their own thoughts and feelings, thus distancing themselves from them and make decisions based on facts rather than impulse or preconceptions.
Also, mindful leaders have been found to cope better with stress (Roche et al., 2014) and to have a positive influence on the staff they supervise (Reb et al., 2014), due to being more attentive to other people’s needs.
4. Promote Better Teamwork and Relationships between Staff
Research (Karlin, 2018) suggests that employees who practise mindfulness have higher levels of empathy and work better as a team. As mindfulness involves compassion, employees who practice mindfulness tend to be more accepting of each other, thus work better together.
Also, mindfulness improves focus and the attention span, which means that it enhances people’s ability to listen to each other without preconceptions and without getting distracted. As a result, communication skills improve and this benefits teamwork.
In addition, if employees are happier overall because of mindfulness, they will also be better inclined towards each other. They will work better together and productivity will also benefit.
5. Enhance Creativity and Innovation
Creativity in the workplace is crucial, not only in terms of the invention of new products and services but also for problem-solving and the development of more efficient processes.
Research (Byrne and Thatchenkery, 2019) has recently been done, which supports the idea that mindfulness training in the workplace has a positive impact on staff’s creativity levels, due to the increase in awareness and attention.
Another reason why mindfulness training helps staff to unleash their creativity may be that they feel less stressed when faced with situations that involve competition (Choi et al., 2018). Mindfulness can also promote creativity because it helps people be more aware and open to novelty (Al-Zu’bi, 2018).
6. Develop Better Decision Making Skills
Attending a mindfulness workshop or training session can also lead to better decision making. This is because it makes us more detached and more objective.
So, for example, it reduces our tendency to carry on with something just because we have already invested money and time in it, rather than because it is worth doing. Sometimes, it is better to cut one’s losses and mindfulness can help us better evaluate these situations.
Also, mindfulness can make us more objective, by enabling us to see what is really in front of us rather than being influenced by bias or by past experiences.
Finally, just by reducing stress alone, mindfulness practice can help people make better decisions (Jeanguenat and Dror, 2018).
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7. Transform the Overall Culture of an Organisation
Last but not least, encouraging staff to develop mindfulness through workshops, training and day to day practice can transform the whole organisation and turn it into a ‘mindful organisation’.
Mindful organizations develop what is called collective mindfulness, an area that is being researched recently with interesting results.
A mindful organisation is one that embraces mindfulness as a central part of its culture. It does not involve staff meditating together, but rather staff acting in ways that are mindful, i.e. focused, aware, compassionate and with an open mind.
Mindful organizations tend to be proactive, as they focus on what is really going on around them, rather than acting on autopilot and out of habits.
So, these companies can be more innovative and better able to listen to what their customers want and develop accordingly, thus keeping ahead of the competition.
Also, staff turnover tends to be lower, which means that these companies retain talent and expertise.
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