Mindfulness is defined as “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.” But in a world where everything seems to move at Usain Bolt’s pace, being present in the moment can be difficult.
Mindfulness at work, whatever work may look like for you and your organization, has its challenges. From phones ringing, to digital notifications, to children needing help, distractions are everywhere vying for attention. Trying to focus on multiple things at once, or “multi-tasking,” can leave anyone feeling tired, overwhelmed, and unproductive.
This is where mindfulness comes in. Being able to dial in on the present moment and focus on one task at a time can help you feel connected to your work and keep productivity high. The goal isn’t to empty the mind of thoughts, but to become more aware of our surroundings and how we feel in the moment, without judging ourselves or making assumptions.
How to Get Employee Buy-In With Mindfulness
The 2011 survey, “Attitudes in the American Workplace VII,” found that nearly half of employees say they need help in learning how to manage stress and 42% say their coworkers need such help. From privacy concerns to not knowing what to say, navigating employee mental health can be a daunting task. Check out our employee mental health playlist for videos about how to help with employee wellness.
However, establishing a mindfulness program is a great place to start on your organization’s employee wellness journey.
Start by engaging with employees. Ask them if they would be interested in a mindfulness program, and if so, what kind of training or initiatives they would like to see implemented.
Gather those ideas and start with something small. You can always continue to build on the program and roll out new initiatives in the future.
Help employees see the benefits mindfulness can bring.
Mindfulness Helps Focus
Most of the time our minds are wandering – worrying about what to make for dinner, fretting over a pending deadline, preparing for the future, and then checking social media. With a lot of things vying for our attention, we lose focus. Mindfulness can help. By repeatedly coming back to the present moment after our train of thought has taken us away from the task at hand, we are able to learn to be more focused.
Mindfulness Reduces Stress
According to The American Institute of Stress, an estimated one million workers are absent every day due to stress. That means when employees are stressed out, they aren’t present, and productivity and engagement go down.
To combat feelings of stress, many organizations, such as Google and Target, have implemented mindfulness programs to help relieve stress and boost engagement. Taking just a few moments to sit with your eyes closed and focus on your breathing helps your stress response not snap on immediately. You can become more aware of any aches and pains, as well as emotions, and address them as needed.
Mindfulness Strengthens Relationships
The relationships employees have at work can make or break their mood and engagement. Positive relationships help ease workplace stressors while helping employees foster communication and creativity. Practicing mindfulness can help employees build empathy and acceptance. Empathy allows people to better understand others’ emotions and reactions.
View our ebook “Practical EQ: A Handbook for Developing Your Emotional Intelligence” for tips on further developing the EQ of everyone on your team.
Mindfulness Builds Resilience
Resilience is the ability to cope in difficult situations and bounce back easily. As employees become more mindful, they can start to respond to stressors from a place of freedom, and act with resilience. Through mindfulness, employees can learn compassion, acceptance, openness, and creativity.
- Compassion – Employees learn not to judge themselves or others and to limit their self-talk. They become kinder, more supportive teammates.
- Acceptance – Employees learn to differentiate fact from feelings and let go of the need to be in control.
- Openness – Employees will begin to see challenges as opportunities for growth rather than roadblocks to success.
- Creativity – When employees are no longer judging themselves or their ideas, they can openly share and listen. With this mindset, ideas can flourish.
Tools to Get Started Developing Mindfulness
Employees will need guidance on how to practice mindfulness. Here are a few exercises to help them get started.
First up is a breathing exercise. Employees can do this as a guided group meditative practice, at their desks, at home, or in a quiet, empty room. Here are the steps:
- Close your eyes.
- Bring your attention to your breath.
- If your mind wanders, simply focus back on your breathing.
- Become aware of any thoughts, feelings, or sensations, and perceive them as part of your surroundings.
- Continue one minute, or as long as time allows.
Employees might want more resources than just a simple breathing exercise. Here are a few apps that can help.
Headspace – This app has hundreds of 10-minute meditation sessions and is designed to be a “personal trainer” for mindfulness to help establish a daily routine. It can help with anxiety, focus, and sleep, and is backed by several scientific studies. There is also a specific section for using this app in the workplace.
Calm – This app provides guided mindfulness meditations and offers sleep and relaxation benefits. It provides various sound options as well. Everyday there is a daily session to help users unwind and refocus. There is also a dedicated section on the website for using the app in the workplace.
Insight Timer – This app has more than 25,000 guided meditations from thousands of teachers. The meditations cover topics such as stress, relationships, and creativity. There are guided meditations and simple soundtracks to use for breathing. Users can share and discuss their mindfulness experience with others in community groups and follow people they enjoy.
Apple Watch – Apple users that have the watch also have a built-in app called Breathe. It is a simple guided meditation that helps users focus on their breathing while sitting still. It can be done for one minute up to five minutes any number of times a day. At the end of the time set, the app displays the user’s current heart rate.
There are several other apps out there that are free or have a fee, so encourage employees to select the one that is right for them.
Developing Mindful Leaders
Before you can even get your employees to buy in, you will need to be mindful yourself and work with other leaders to practice and implement the same behaviors.
Often leaders are focused on actions, tasks, and results. Mindful leaders are present and attentive to the needs of the organization. They focus on what’s going well, what teams need to get their jobs done, listening, and asking questions. By being mindful, they in turn encourage diversity and inclusion, bolster creativity, and develop buy-in to the mission from employees.
By teaching leaders to be more mindful, they can shift to a mindset of focus and awareness of both themselves and the business. Being able to engage in self-reflection and greater empathy is going to bear the best results – knowing how a situation makes someone feel and how to best respond.
This is an important part of what it means to develop emotional intelligence (EQ). Understanding and managing emotions can help relieve stress, boost communication, help develop empathy, and resolve conflict.
But the most important part is to practice the exercises you plan to pass to your employees. Encourage them to take time within their day to breathe, focus, and practice awareness of their surroundings. Have them reflect on their day, and soon they can develop a more mindful mindset. Training on mindfulness is beneficial to all.