BY ANDREW MCDONALD
Mindfulness makes the workplace a more productive environment for both employees and employers.
Once simply a Buddhist practice firmly rooted in the East, mindfulness has seen a popularity boom in the Western world. Yet, it is something which is still frequently misunderstood.
Neither weird nor wonderful, mindfulness is beautiful in its simplicity. All it means is being aware of what is going on both in the external and internal world. In other words, awareness of occurrences within, and outside the practitioner’s body.
The first benefit to the workplace is an increase in focus. Places of employment are, by nature, busy. With so much going on, it is easy to get distracted. Concentration quickly becomes very difficult.
In fact, despite being an overly used buzzword, there is good evidence that multitasking is impossible for human beings. Workers are almost expected to do what they cannot by nature. No wonder then, that, with mindfulness training, employees score higher in tests on reading-comprehension, working memory capacity and ability to reduce the frequency of distracting thoughts.
A focused worker is a healthier, less stressed, and more efficient worker. Not only is this advantageous for the employee, but the employer benefits from a more productive workforce. Potentially, it also cuts down on sick leave, too. Productivity increases and burnout reduces. A study conducted in a chemical factory in America demonstrated that a mindfulness programme led directly to a $22,000 saving per employee for the company.
As a direct result of being less stressed, mindfulness practitioners become more helpful. A study carried out by five leading international education institutions found that employees who are mindful are more willing to spend time helping colleagues. Again, the plus points for both workers and bosses are obvious.
Communication also improves dramatically. When a boss is mindful, it signals humility, compassion, and authenticity to staff. A manager becomes a team player. A leader, yes. A dictator, no. By being more approachable, heads of companies encourage their employees to engage both with them, and with each other in a more honest and productive manner. This also filters down through an organisation’s hierarchy.
It seems almost silly to point out that teams comprised of helpful, more communicative co-workers encounter less conflict. Workplace arguments and power politics demotivate staff, leading to them being less efficient, and cost employers serious time and money in bringing resolution. Furthermore, it causes another headache for bosses through high turnover.
Whilst it is, in reality, easy to understand, it does take time to build mindfulness as a habit. You simply cannot go from near zero to fully aware overnight. All this means, however, is regularly taking a couple of minutes to be mindful and increase that time, and the frequency of those periods, over weeks and months.
Don’t be hard on yourself if you struggle at first, you’ll get there. And when you do, your workplace will be transformed!