The incredible technical innovations of the past several decades have solved many problems at work, but they’ve made others worse. One of these is employee burnout. It’s hard to truly decompress when work emails are just a click or tap away, after all.
Practicing mindfulness at work is one of the best ways for employees to separate themselves from everyday stressors and maintain emotional wellness. Mindfulness can make a large impact at little to no cost, whether it’s practiced by individual employees or as part of your organization’s employee wellness program.
What does mindfulness at work mean?
Mindfulness happens when you’re focused on the present moment. It’s a calm mental state that you can achieve when you concentrate on what you are seeing and feeling right now. It reduces anxiety about the future and regrets about the past, giving you the perspective you need to accept each. Specific mindfulness practices like meditation increase self-awareness and help you enter a calm, happy, and focused state.
Many are exposed to activities like meditation or breath work as a part of fitness or therapeutic activities, but mindfulness can have many benefits beyond your yoga mat, including improving your days at work. Bringing mindfulness into the workplace can boost employee wellness with a plethora of benefits on and off the job. Your organization’s leadership should encourage and support mindfulness, but there’s plenty you can do to practice mindfulness on your own no matter where you work.
The benefits of practicing mindfulness at work
Increasing your mindfulness is an effective tool for team members at all levels of the organization, from front line staff to the C-suite. Many companies have chosen to offer wellness programs that bring mindfulness activities into their team’s daily lives. Here are just a few of the many benefits that you can enjoy as a result of giving your organization a focus on improving mindfulness.
Mindfulness can improve individual emotional wellness by reducing anxiety and other negative emotions. It can also boost positive qualities like self-awareness and patience. Emotionally healthy team members are less likely to experience burnout and can act more effectively on a daily basis.
Incorporating mindfulness into your daily life takes work. When you’re used to being stressed and distracted, it can be difficult to change your focus and processes. But these efforts are worthwhile. Feeling fully engaged in the tasks at hand without worries about the future or fears about the past makes happiness that much easier to come by.
More connected to others
When you’re emotionally well and less stressed, it takes less effort to make strong connections with others. Greater patience and tolerance can also result from increased mindfulness. These qualities are invaluable when building strong, resilient interpersonal connections.
Better handling of criticism
Criticism is a part of life, and no amount of mindfulness will make you immune to mistakes. However, with your stress, anxiety and negative emotions reduced, and your self-awareness and tolerance increased, you’re in a much better position to accept and respond positively to constructive feedback.
7 tips for practicing mindfulness — with examples
If you’re committed to practicing mindfulness on the job and making it a part of your organizational culture, here are seven best practices to follow. Many of these helpful techniques can be put into practice almost instantly. Try them yourself and share them with your team.
1. Listen in the moment
You hear what team members and others say every day, but are you truly listening? Mindful listening involves accepting and understanding what others say, staying aware of your own emotions — negative or otherwise — so you can better communicate. You devote your full attention to whoever is communicating with you, focus on your breathing and your body, and carefully take stock of what you’ve been told and what you think about it. This open, intentional attitude keeps you in tune with yourself and enables you to respond effectively, without being limited by thoughts or feelings you might not even be aware of.
Listening is also important beyond one-on-one interactions. A key part of listening at an organizational level is establishing anonymous channels where team members can share their input — and then acting on that feedback to demonstrate that you truly value their input. Showing that your organization prioritizes employee voice, is a safe space for all types of feedback, and takes action on what it hears is essential.
2. Practice acceptance
It’s often a hard thing to reckon with, but you don’t control everything in your life, including things at work. Every job involves factors that impact your work experience, from late deliveries by vendors to sick teammates. These issues can easily cause stress, but practicing acceptance can help. Focusing on what you can control and accepting what you can’t helps with letting go of judgment and anxiety. Keep a strong focus on your own daily projects and deliverables and take the time to touch base with your own emotions when external factors have an impact.
3. Focus on your breathing
Your autonomic nervous system has two parts: sympathetic and parasympathetic. The most simple explanation of these two systems is that the sympathetic nervous system excites you, while the parasympathetic nervous system calms you. Mindful breathing exercises activate the latter, lowering your heart rate, blood pressure, and even your level of pain intensity.
A breathing exercise can also be as simple as taking five or ten deep breaths in a row with your eyes closed. Try it now and see how you feel after. There are numerous options for breathing exercises, scripts and activities. Explore a few until you find one that is easy and effective.
4. Take a break, and pause when you need to
When you’re blocking time in your day for your tasks, make sure that breaks and rest are scheduled as well. Leaving your desk for screen-free time outdoors can be particularly beneficial, and your organization should encourage all employees to take time to recharge. It’s also important to pause when you feel negative emotions building. Take a day to think on a frustrating or confusing request before you respond. Working through your feelings, practicing acceptance, and replying from a mindful place is likely to lead to a better outcome.
5. Avoid multitasking
Busy days sometimes make multitasking feel like the only option. But it can actually negatively impact your performance, as you can only focus well on one thing at a time. When you multitask, you’re doing several things poorly, which wastes time in the end and is part of why multitasking feels so stressful.
Multitasking is a major roadblock to practicing mindfulness at work. Instead of fruitlessly dividing your attention, block time for specific tasks on your calendar. And remove distractions like email and chat notifications to keep you on-task during those times.
6. Leave work at work
The challenge of fully disconnecting from work has always been there. But it’s now harder than ever with emails and more just a tap away. Make sure you turn off notifications at the end of the day and let your team know when you will be unavailable. Your organization should clearly communicate reasonable expectations when it comes to work hours and availability as well.
For those who work from home, physical barriers or rituals can also help. Close the door to your home office, or pack up and turn off the technology at your dining room table. You can also leave for a walk, errands, or a workout to mark the end of the workday.
7. Limit distractions
Limiting distractions is a key complement to many of the mindfulness practices outlined above. Consider all elements of both your digital and physical environments. What’s most likely to break your focus and interfere with a mindful lifestyle? You may want to start with turning off unnecessary notifications, blocking tempting apps or sites, and leaving your phone in another room. Ensure you have easy access to what you need and have removed any remaining procrastination temptations, even if this means leaving your home or desk to work in an environment where you can be more productive.
Make mindfulness a part of your organization’s wellness program
Mindfulness seems so simple, but knowing just how to start can be anything but, especially when it comes to encouraging mindfulness across your whole organization. Creating a truly impactful wellness program that supports mindfulness begins with listening to your team. What do they want and need? Where are they struggling? Completing and acting on employee feedback using a dynamic employee engagement platform like Achievers Listen is a great way to gather the insights needed to transform wellness at your company.
Talking about mindfulness in abstract terms is helpful, but putting that talk into action will result in the most benefits for your team. When you build mindfulness activities and objectives into your recognition and rewards program — with help from Achievers Recognize — you can offer an extra nudge and incentive to motivate team members to make their self-care plans a reality and meet their mindfulness goals.
Whether your company has an existing wellness program or is just getting started, the Achievers Employee Experience Platform can help. Start your organization’s journey to creating a healthy, happy culture.