Mindfulness in the Workplace

By: Emily Gumm, Search Coordinator, GattiHR

In just over a month, our lives and how we live has drastically changed. While there are many great tools and resources to help with this time, there is one tool that can work, regardless of an internet connection, an app or even a specific job, and that is practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, any time and can help to improve emotional intelligence, improve communication and reduce stress and anxiety.

What is Mindfulness?

What was once a new-age practice has largely become a common place term that gets thrown around a lot. So, what is mindfulness exactly? Jon Kabat-Zinn, a leading proponent of mindfulness and a professor of medicine, offers this definition:

“The awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose to the present moment nonjudgmentally.”

Mindfulness is practiced to understand the self, as well as the world at large. As humans, we are wired to tell stories, but when things don’t go our way or unexpected changes occur, our stories get disrupted. And then what? We become angry and frustrated. We try to change things to get the story back in line the way we want. But mindfulness teachers would argue that when we do this, we are missing out on what life really is. Mindfulness allows us to be fully present to the moment without being attached to the outcome and in doing so present to life.

The Value of Mindfulness:

One way to practice mindfulness is through simple daily meditations. By taking just 10 minutes to sit still and follow our breathing and gently allowing our thoughts to move through us, we begin to practice mindfulness, and the results can be extraordinary. According to Mindful Magazine, “The typical person will have a gamma wave very briefly, for example, when we’ve solved a problem we’ve been grappling with, and for a second all of our sensory inputs come together in harmony. The brainwaves of long-term meditators, however, show gamma all the time as a lasting trait, no matter what they are doing.”

Plus, the Value of Mindfulness in the Workplace:

Reduce Stress and Anxiety– One of the benefits of practicing mindfulness is that suddenly people are less likely to be yanked around by their emotions. Stress and anxiety are emotions that show up in the workplace. Tight deadlines and tough conversations are part of most professions, and these challenges can be major growth opportunities for many. Mindfulness allows us to stay in the moment and face the challenge without being overwhelmed by the emotions of stress and anxiety.

Improve Focus– With overwhelming emotions no longer a hurdle, employees find that practicing mindfulness allows for sharper focus. Mindfulness naturally directs one’s thinking to the present moment and this allows employees to stay alert to the task at hand.

Improve Communication– Improved focus and better emotional regulation naturally lends itself to better communication. Mindfulness helps us let go of the stories we have about ourselves and what’s happening so we can cut to the chase and communicate about the facts in a straightforward manner.

How to Bring Mindfulness to the Workplace

With all these benefits there are a few simple ways to bring mindfulness to the workplace. No guru or trip to India necessary.

Short Mindful Exercises– Setting aside 30 minutes to meditate can be a daunting task, especially with a long or busy workday ahead. Instead, practice a short exercise of mindfulness. Take one minute to focus on only one sense. Allow your self to simply breathe and feel your breath or listen or smell. This can be done while in a break room or even sitting with eyes open at a desk. Breaking up the day with even one exercise can help.

Try Single-Tasking– Multi-tasking can be great and really increase efficiency depending on the type of work, but ultimately, studies find that we are more efficient when we are doing one task at a time. Single-tasking helps us keep track of what were doing and go deeper into our work. One way to increase single-tasking is to set calendar reminders with blocks of time set aside for different tasks and projects.

Practice Gratitude– Humans are wired towards negativity; we’re meant to be able to pick out what goes wrong and to see the flaw. However, when this type of thinking is left unchecked, it is too destructive to our mental health, relationships and ability to practice mindfulness. Gratitude is one of the quickest ways to reign in the negativity. Make a list at the end of each day of 3 things that happened that you are grateful for. Or, set a reminder on your phone and simply pause once or twice throughout the day to find 1 or 2 things you are grateful for.