In our pressure cooker of a work environment today, where information overload, a frenetic pace and poor work-life balance are factors that plague a good majority of the workforce, sorting through the chaos while maintaining a sense of calm and focus is a task that’s increasingly hard to master.
It’s times like these that employers need to implement programs and tools that can effectively help their employees achieve a better work-life balance, build up their resilience and reduce their stress levels. One tool that has been increasingly adopted across organisations big and small — from government bodies and multinationals like Google and Apple, to startups — is mindfulness.
Why is mindfulness important in the workplace?
Much research has been conducted to examine the benefits that mindfulness brings to the workplace and our daily lives. Contemplating Mindfulness at Work, a study published in the Journal of Management, details the findings of a team of researchers who have considered 4,000 scientific papers on different aspects of mindfulness.
Conclusions from the study include:
- Substantial evidence shows that mindfulness creates positive impacts on our overall human functioning, on aspects such as attention, behaviour, physiology and cognition.
- Mindfulness improves three factors relating to our attention: stability, control and efficiency. Individuals who have undertaken mindfulness trainings were able to remain focused for a longer duration on visual and listening tasks.
- Mindfulness may improve relationships through encouraging empathy and compassion, which suggests that mindfulness initiatives may positively impact processes that depend upon efficient leadership and team collaboration.
Let’s take a look at companies on the mindfulness bandwagon…
Increasingly, organisations across sizes and sectors are embracing mindfulness approaches and programs. Most of us will be familiar with the popular “Search Inside Yourself” course, a personal growth and mindfulness program created by Chade-Meng Tan of Google.
Other organisations that have introduced mindfulness to their employees include Twitter (the company offers a dedicated room where Twitter employees can practice yoga and meditation), Asana (private yoga classes are conducted for all employees) and Aetna (the organisation developed and launched two mindfulness programs, Viniyoga Stress Reduction and Mindfulness at Work for its employees and customers).
Even the British Parliament has jumped in on the mindfulness bandwagon. A mindfulness initiative, known as “Mindful Nation UK”, was established in October last year to address mental health issues across diverse sectors through mindfulness initiatives.
Positive responses to mindfulness: Employees are ready for more
A large majority of the workforce has reaped the benefits of mindfulness practices — and welcome more of such initiatives in the workplace.
At health insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield, employees are requesting for additional yoga and meditation classes to be conducted. Meditation is also catching on at Newton-Wellesley Hospital, where its staff remarked that they’d return to work after a meditation session and “nothing bothered” them, and referred to the meditation room as their “safe place”.
Individuals who have participated in Google’s “Search Inside Yourself” program reported developing a greater sense of calm, patience and ability to listen. They also indicated that the program helped them in managing stress and defusing their emotions.
And at Aetna, employees who have participated in the company’s initiatives reported remarkable improvements in their perceived stress levels. 33 percent in the Viniyoga program and 36 percent in a mindfulness program showed improvements in their perceived stress levels — relative to 18 percent in the control group.
Going beyond dollars and cents: What are the impacts of mindfulness programs?
Most employers don’t keep track of the impacts of mindfulness programs on their bottom lines. But the benefits are obvious — by embracing mindfulness in the workplace, employees experience a drop in stress levels, along with improvements in clarity, attention, decision-making and general well-being. It helps individuals become more present, balanced and engaged — leading to benefits not just in a professional context, but also in their personal lives.
Tips and takeaways: How can you introduce mindfulness to your workplace?
- Keep things open and flexible
It’s best to steer clear of making mindfulness programs mandatory for all employees, as a sense of curiosity and open-mindedness is crucial for individuals new to the practice.
Take a leaf out of the books of MassMutual, a mutual life insurance organisation. The organisation adopts a flexible approach, providing its employees with multiple options depending on their level of interest and needs.
Employees who are new to the practice may try out a series of short video tutorials that encourage them to take short breaks at their desks, while those who are keen on a more immersive experience may sign up for lengthier seminars or courses on mindfulness and stress management.
You may also opt for an employee wellbeing platform that provides unique, tailor-made programs that can be customised to meet the needs of your staff.
- Create variety
Variety is the spice of life — so throw up an array of options ranging from mindfulness workshops and yoga classes, to creating a physical space where employees can establish their own practice on an informal basis.
- Build up a support community
Build up a community through creating systems that encourage communication and information sharing. At Google, an internal online community, gPause, was established for employees to share books, resources, retreats and other related information that support a community of mindfulness practice.
wellteq is a connected wellness platform that offers a series of health tech programs for employee engagement and HR data analytics. Through the use of technology, they are re-connecting people with health and organisations with stronger productivity.
If employee mindfulness and mental wellness are of interest, have a look at their MIND-your-Step program