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3 ways to cultivate mindfulness in the workplace

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After decades of the global workweek getting longer and longer, and almost a decade of needing to be ‘always on’ in many workplaces, many employers are shifting gears.

The notion of working smart, not hard, has been accepted for some time. And revelations in automation and access to quality analytics have flipped the notion that you have to stay “busy” to be productive.

One business trend that’s aiming for the heart (or should we say head) of decompressing to boost productivity is that of businesses embracing mindfulness.

And while mindfulness in the workplace lines up well with broader initiatives like making a workplace “fun” or attempting to model workplaces that provide work-life balance, truly pushing mindfulness in a workplace can remain more elusive. You can buy a ping pong table for work. There’s no product that “declutters” your co-workers’ minds.

In writing this article, we’ve surveyed most of the recent literature on mindfulness in the workplace.  A huge range of peer-reviewed medical articles already back up the trend (741 medical articles this year alone). But applying well known wellness practices to the workplace is evolving, and imperfect.

With this in mind we’ve organized some of the most popular content related to mindfulness into three categories: defining mindfulness, getting the gear, and building habits with expectations.

Define mindfulness

A great deal of early coverage of mindfulness was loose in its definitions, and over-promising in its description of outcomes. As the science of mindfulness has evolved, clear definitions of exactly what practices are beneficial (and how they’re beneficial) have been crafted. Be sure to start your mindfulness-boosting initiative by finding some great resources on the topic to share with your co-workers.

So what is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the act of slowing down and becoming aware of one’s thoughts of feelings. Often occurring in tandem with meditation or mindful moments, mindfulness involves being aware of one’s feelings without reacting to them. By not judging or labelling the thoughts and feelings that come into your head (as most people normally do), you become better and better at releasing yourself from the hold your thoughts have on you when you’re on autopilot.

One of the basic tenants that is attached to many of the beneficial aspects of mindfulness is that you are not your thoughts. When you can separate yourself from your thoughts (and subsequent reactions) you minimize what is for many a source of chronic stress. Mindfulness has been shown to lower stress responses, enhance focus, improve mood, and even alter the physical structure of your brain.

Want to learn more about mindfulness? Visit a local Buddhist temple. Or one of the best guides we’ve seen on the topic may be seen here.

Get the gear

I know we mentioned how mindfulness isn’t something you can buy. But the act of signalling mindfulness as a priority to workers is important. Create a meditation nook (like Nike, Google, and Apple), or just grab some quality yoga mats and meditation chairs. Hoberman spheres have been known to be great prompts for remembering to breathe deeply and regularly.

Without visual reminders, you may have workers who dabble in mindfulness, but mindfulness won’t be a palpable part of your workplace culture. Additionally, subsidizing apps, books, and classes on mindfulness can be a great way to signal your organization’s support for mindfulness practices.

Habits start with expectations

Even with a solid educational effort and gear galore, your mindfulness effort will likely falter without some effort to instill mindfulness as a habit in your employees. Luckily, behavior is anything but a random occurrence. Behavior adaptation is systemic and be supported in an organized way.

Luckily, two of the most reinforcing ways to integrate a new behavior in your team are also two of the easiest to enact. Leading by example just requires you to visibly focus on mindfulness-boosting activities. Co-workers wishing to gain valuable face time with managers within the organization simply need to show up and participate in mindfulness activities. While meditation isn’t the most social of activities, organized events can lend social reinforcement to an otherwise solitary task. By organizing classes, or gamifying the experience (there are a wide range of apps that help to track progress at meditation) habit formation becomes social and oftentimes fun. Most clear headed in the office award, anyone?

Finally, don’t micromanage or sweat the small stuff in relation to mindfulness. Some benefits of mindfulness practices will be subtle. And in many ways your best glimpse into whether or not pushing mindfulness in the workplace is “worth it” may be through co-workers self reporting their experience. With that said, there are reams of studies that support mindfulness as a practice. And as awareness of the benefits of mindfulness to focus and well being become more well known, being known as an office place that supports initiatives like this will become a major selling point.

About Business Woman Media

Our women don’t want to settle for anything but the best. They understand that success is a journey involving personal growth, savvy optimism and the tenacity to be the best.We believe in pragmatism, having fun, hard-work and sharing inspiration. LinkedIn

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