Over the last 20 years I’ve experienced a major change in the acceptability of using mindfulness techniques in organisational culture. I can remember hearing from people in the 1990’s that it was a spiritual practice and was not suitable in a professional workplace. I also worked in some Catholic organisations and heard people say that these approaches were not in alignment with Catholic teaching. But a lot has changed in that time and there has been research that shows that mindfulness techniques can be helpful in building a good workplace culture and more engaged staff.
When I was CEO at Ruah it was common to use mindfulness in the mental health work that we were doing, and it was also often used in staff meetings as a way of starting the meeting. In that organisation most staff accepted that it was a helpful way of working together and sharing a community wellbeing activity. This experience is supported by a meta analysis of 153 published papers on mindfulness activities used in the workplace (Lomas et al. 2017) that showed positive outcomes on job satisfaction, subjective wellbeing, and professional quality of life. It was also suggested that the use of mindfulness in the workplace improved staff resilience, quality of relationships, and emotional intelligence.
A few years ago, I can remember preparing for a meeting that I was dreading. A senior manager who reported to me was upset about something that I had done and had requested a meeting to discuss it. I knew that we were both ready to defend our points of view. At the start of the meeting, I asked whether they would be prepared to have 5 minutes of silent meditation to start off with.
The discussion that followed was calm, respectful, and productive. Perhaps it would have been anyway, but the person involved later thanked me for helping to create the right environment within which we could have the discussion. This is supported by research (Hülsheger et al. 2012) that shows that the use of mindfulness in the workplace can assist people to regulate their emotions, thoughts, and access their values.
The benefits of mindfulness in the workplace
Mindfulness, the practice of being present and aware in the moment, has been shown to have a positive impact on various aspects of our lives, including work. There are a number of ways that mindfulness can improve employee engagement in the workplace.
Firstly, mindfulness can help to reduce stress and increase well-being. When employees are stressed and burnt out, they are less likely to be engaged and productive at work. By practicing mindfulness, employees can reduce their stress levels, and increase their well-being, which in turn can lead to increased engagement and productivity (Lomas et al. 2017)
Secondly, mindfulness can improve focus and attention. In today’s fast-paced and constantly connected world, it can be difficult to remain focused and engaged in the task at hand. By practicing mindfulness, employees can improve their ability to focus and pay attention, which can lead to increased engagement and productivity (Lomas et al. 2017)
Thirdly, mindfulness can help to build better relationships. By practicing mindfulness, employees can become more aware of their thoughts and emotions and learn to respond to others in a more mindful and compassionate way. This can help to build better relationships and improve communication in the workplace, leading to increased engagement and collaboration.
Fourthly, mindfulness can help to increase creativity and innovation. When employees are engaged and present in the moment, they are more likely to have creative insights and come up with innovative solutions to problems. By practicing mindfulness, employees can increase their creativity and innovation, and bring new and innovative ideas to the workplace. I saw this in place at Ruah where one of the organisational values was creativity. When creativity was being sought in the workplace it was very commonly linked to the use of mindfulness activities as a way of creating a more creative environment (Kudesia 2015).
In conclusion, mindfulness has been shown to have a positive impact on various aspects of our lives, including work. By reducing stress, improving focus and attention, building better relationships, and increasing creativity and innovation, mindfulness can help to improve employee engagement in the workplace.
There are many different mindfulness practices that can be used in the workplace, many of them quite easily integrated into workplace practices and routines. Get in touch if you want to learn more about how to do this.
Hlsheger, Ute R, Hugo J E M Alberts, Alina Feinholdt, and Jonas W B Lang. 2012. Benefits of Mindfulness at Work: The Role of Mindfulness in Emotion Regulation, Emotional Exhaustion, and Job Satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology. American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/A0031313.
Kudesia, R. (2015). Mindfulness and creativity in the workplace. In J. Reb & P. Atkins (Eds.), Mindfulness in Organizations: Foundations, Research, and Applications (Cambridge Companions to Management, pp. 190-212). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781107587793.010
Lomas, Tim, Juan Carlos Medina, Itai Ivtzan, Silke Rupprecht, and Francisco Jos Eiroa-Orosa. 2017. The Impact of Mindfulness on the Wellbeing and Performance of Educators: A Systematic Review of the Empirical Literature. Teaching and Teacher Education. Elsevier. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.TATE.2016.10.008.