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Bringing Mindfulness Into the Workplace – An Introduction

By: Ronda Payne

Published On: November 12, 2021

Bringing Mindfulness Into the Workplace – An Introduction

There seems to be a lot of talk about mindfulness these days, but what exactly is it? Does it belong in the workplace? How do all the apps and courses designed around mindfulness fit in? Isn’t it just sitting in a dark and quiet room to meditate? Do we really need to learn how to do that? 

Funny how there can be so many questions about something that is supposed to make life calmer and easier. Mindfulness is one of those things that means different things to different people, but there are some common roots and concepts. Once you know what the foundation of mindfulness is and have defined the elements that work for you, you’ll have less questions about what it is and more wisdom about how it is beneficial.  

And that’s exactly how mindfulness should work – less questions, more peace and more benefit. 

It's Not Just Meditation 

Many people have come to believe that meditation = mindfulness. Not so. Meditation can be one aspect of a mindfulness practice, but it isn’t the full spectrum.  

In its simplest sense, mindfulness is being aware of a situation you are experiencing in the present moment. It is observing these situations from a point of neutrality, without judgement of yourself or others, thoughts, feelings or sensations. It usually includes checking in with those thoughts and feelings being experienced, but without engaging with them, building a story around them, having a conversation with them or wishing them to be different.  

Therefore, mindfulness is taking a moment to be aware, without judgement or reaction, of a moment. It isn’t about right or wrong. There’s no need to find a dark room or bring a special cushion to sit on. You don’t need to sit cross-legged or chant either – but you can if you want to. 

How is Mindfulness Achieved? 

As mentioned, meditation is just one method that allows for mindfulness. Any time you take a moment to become aware of your thoughts and feelings without assigning labels (good, happy, right, wrong, bad, angry, rude…) to them, you are practicing mindfulness. So, celebrate! You already know how to do this inherently; you likely just need practice and tips along the way.  

Sometimes taking a mindfulness course, or another type of education, can help with practice and learning techniques. Each form of mindfulness training will have its own unique twist on ways to achieve mindfulness. Courses, like Ashton College’s live online mindfulness training are just one option. There are also apps like Headspace, Calm and Insight Timer. YouTube boasts a wide range of mindfulness sessions and there are also many books and workshops.  

There is a lot of stress in the world right now – even before COVID caused more of it – and mindfulness has been growing in terms of a mainstream need to help people slow down, calm the racing thoughts and tune into where they are at in life. No longer is it seen as “woo woo”, but instead has been identified as a valuable tool for better living. Even at work, mindfulness has a valuable role.

Introducing Mindfulness to the Workplace 

While the Baby Boomer generation may not feel the need to bring mindfulness into the workplace, just about everyone else will recognize the benefits of slowing down for a moment to relax heightened emotions and feelings. The Boomers will still benefit, they may just show some reluctance at first. When we consider the most common places where our stress levels increase, the workplace is high on the list.  

A 2011 Statistics Canada report noted that 62% of respondents said work was their main source of stress. It can be assumed that in a COVID world, health will now be on that list and finances will have crept up from 12%, but work is still likely to hold the top position.  

If we think about how workplaces have evolved in terms of training, incorporating mindfulness is the next logical step. Years ago, there was an influx of co-worker bonding sessions, trust training and brainstorming getaways. These all focused on the team.  

However, teams are made up of individuals. Some of those individuals may need help achieving more mental peace and reflection in order to be better team members. 

Mindfulness in Action at Work 

Bringing an approach of mindfulness to the office on a large scale may take some time and convincing of the higher-ups. On an individual, team or small group scale, however, it’s relatively easy to incorporate. Groups that normally gather for lunch, book club or other social reasons can bring a 15-minute mindfulness break into the mix.  

Individuals can find “mindfulness accountability buddies” and connect in-person or virtually for a quick 5-minute mindfulness break each day.  

On your own, when hit with a stressful situation (your boss demanding an answer, reading an unpleasant email, etc.) take a moment to breathe and be in the moment.  

When it comes to the workplace as a whole, organizations are incorporating more opportunities such as organization-wide mindfulness courses and mindfulness training through corporate subscriptions to apps, workshop-based platforms and other tools. Getting to this stage is going to require a champion, likely in the HR department or someone in the C-suite who genuinely believes in and supports the practice of mindfulness in the workplace.  

There will be naysayers of course, but the research is proving that mindfulness at work is a good thing. US-based healthcare provider Aetna brought a mindfulness program into the organization. The results of the 2018 pilot program were impressive: 

  • 28% reduction in stress levels 
  • 20% improvement in sleep quality 
  • 19% reduction in pain 
  • 62 minutes of gained productivity each week per employee 

Where to Start On an Organization-Wide Scale? 

Mindfulness organization-wide can begin so simply that people don’t even recognize it for what it is. It can be a new requirement that each meeting starts with 2 minutes for people to settle into their chair and take 3 deep breaths to calm and prepare. This doesn’t sound “woo woo” at all, does it? In fact, it sounds quite respectful.  

Another practice could include more brainstorming and discussion sessions that include short meditation techniques like clearing the mind of distractions or writing down all those pesky thoughts so that you can focus.  

While the big goal is to bring more robust mindfulness practices into the organization, this may not always be possible or welcomed in the early stages. The best approach is to start with easy activities, allow small groups to take mindfulness into their own social settings and find an advocate among the ranks to begin to move mindfulness forward and reap the benefits of a calmer, happier, better adjusted workforce. 

 

Disclaimer

The information contained in this post is considered true and accurate as of the publication date. However, the accuracy of this information may be impacted by changes in circumstances that occur after the time of publication. Ashton College assumes no liability for any error or omissions in the information contained in this post or any other post in our blog.

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