The recurring theme in many businesses is more for less. We live in a society where we have grown to expect instant gratification, the best price and customer service that goes above and beyond. However, these expectations mean that somewhere there are people under increasing pressure to deliver all this – quite possibly you or your team.
Add to that the ever-increasing number of distractions that have come with smart phones: email and social media constantly at our fingertips, even when we go to bed.
It’s not surprising then that mental health in the workplace has become a hot topic. According to the Mindfulness Initiative in their 2016 Building the Case report, since 2009 the number of sick days lost to stress, depression and anxiety has increased by 24% and the number lost to serious mental illness has doubled.
It is becoming clear that we cannot continue as we are. We need to strip back and simplify, which is undoubtedly why many business leaders are turning to Mindfulness to solve a very modern problem.
What is Mindfulness?
The popularity of Mindfulness in the western world has skyrocketed in recent years. It’s on the cover of magazines and appears on the evening news. Celebrities swear by it, scientists study it and business leaders use it to counter burnout, increase focus and concentration, widen perspective, regulate emotions and develop a better sense of empathy.
Over the last 4 decades Mindfulness has been a topic of extensive research, much of which has provided scientific evidence to suggest that the practice has considerable physical and mental health-related benefits.
The Oxford Dictionary describes it as being the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
Mindful Magazine states that ‘Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.’
The Charity ‘Mind’ asserts that ‘Mindfulness describes a way of approaching our thoughts and feelings so that we become more aware of them and react differently to them.’
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founding Executive Director of the Centre for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and also the founding director of its renowned Stress Reduction Clinic and Professor of Medicine Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School offers one of the most widely used definitions of Mindfulness: “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.”
As you can see from the definitions there is a recurring theme – that Mindfulness is about being proactively aware of what we are doing rather than passively reacting to the situations we find ourselves in.
So how does Mindfulness benefit us at work?
The very fact that through Mindfulness we can regulate attention and become acutely aware of our thoughts and actions and therefore more in control of what is going on around us means it can be a powerful tool in the workplace. The current research from Harvard University suggests that people spend up to 46.9% of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they are doing. This partial attention can have huge implications both in the workplace and at home. Mindfulness can help to address this issue by using a combination of meditation and contemporary techniques and strategies enabling participants to ‘work smarter not harder’ says Positive Consultancy on their Workplace Mindfulness page
It can provide staff in all parts of an organisation with lifelong resources to manage the 24×7 stress of hyper-connectivity and helps to sustain high performance both individually and organisationally.
Is it really that effective?
In their Building the Case report the Mindfulness Initiative cites a study by Bond and Shapiro into factors that support individuals’ resilience within organisations because Mindfulness has been shown to:
- equip individuals with self-awareness that helps them to understand resilience and actively participate in its development
- enables people to recognise the signs of stress and respond more effectively
- develops discernment between activities that nurture or deplete internal resources
- recognises the power of thoughts and finds ways of skilfully working with them
- supports a culture where relationships are valued.
As the Mindfulness Initiative argues, this makes a real case for Mindfulness in the workplace. Its report also features case studies from a range of organisations that demonstrate how Mindfulness can bring other various benefits to businesses. For example helping staff to deal more successfully with change, challenging situations and workplace politics and to better manage difficult relationships. It also shows how staff productivity can improve, how listening skills improve, and how working memory can increase etc. In addition it advocates that resilience should be an integral part of leadership development.
And the numbers back this up too. According to research by The Institute of Mindful Leadership, ‘93% of leaders’ surveyed said mindfulness training helped them create space for innovation, 89% reported the training enhanced their ability to listen and 70% said it helped them think strategically.’
If you are still not convinced, Positive Consultancy have found that Mindfulness and Meditation in the workplace offers a higher return on investment than a generalised relaxation or wellbeing programme alone.
What makes a great Mindfulness in the workplace training programme?
People arrive at Mindfulness training with varying levels of knowledge and understanding. The programmes therefore need to introduce the concept of Mindfulness through easy and accessible tools which should be highly portable and provide a sustainable way for participants to manage their health and wellbeing once the training course is over.
Positive Consultancy’s programmes do this and more, which is reflected in feedback they have received to date, including the following from an IT Sales Director who says “I now practice Mindfulness and Meditation most lunch hours. This gives me the opportunity to pause from a very pressured job and environment. I feel much calmer, more focused and have a greater sense of clarity and perspective in my workplace. I have also found this to reflect well in my leadership role. “
Furthermore, Positive Consultancy offers programmes at a variety of lengths and settings depending on the particular requirements of the company and its objectives for introducing Mindfulness training to its staff.
It’s a no-brainer really
Positive Consultancy places great emphasis in its work with clients on the way in which Mindfulness can help people to cope with change and uncertainty, avoid rigid or scattered thinking and become more comfortable with not knowing. Feedback from clients has shown that Mindfulness improves a person’s ability to respond rather than react, to think more clearly and strategically, and to be more creative in solving problems. Ultimately Mindfulness can help you and your company to not only develop a new ‘way of being’ as an integral part of the company culture, it can also help individuals and ultimately the business as a whole to be more productive.
Do you want to create a more mindful workplace?
If you are looking to create a more cohesive, effective and focused team, then workplace Mindfulness can help you. To find out more about how we can help you, get in touch for a free consultation.Book A Free Initial Consultation