According to The American Institute of Stress, 80 per cent of workers feel stressed on the job today, and nearly half say they really need help to cope with their stress load. As companies move to combat the negative impact of stressed workers on their productivity (stress is linked to lost time, heart attacks and hypertension), many of them are turning to an age-old practice called mindfulness.
Mega corporations like Google and General Mills and even business tycoons like Oprah Winfrey are encouraging the use of mediation and mindful breathing in workplaces to help their workers cope better with stress. Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh, Nobel Peace Prize winner, defines mindfulness as the energy of being aware and awake to the present moment.
Translated to the modern workplace, mindfulness is seen as a way of helping workers stay in the moment and worry less about the past or the future. They are taught through meditation techniques and breathing exercises to focus on the present and work purposefully to completing the goal at hand.
Three researchers who have looked at the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace are Michael Bunting, founder of WorkSmart Australia, and James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. Today they support the importance of mindful leadership in their book Extraordinary Leadership in Australia and New Zealand.
Among the benefits identified for workers and managers alike in the mindful workplace are reduced stress and absenteeism, enhanced creativity and imaginative solutions to problems, heightened cognitive thinking skills and the development of better leaders.
Today’s worker’s stress is caused by repeatedly thinking about encounters with difficult bosses, about staggeringly heavy workloads, and about fear for the future including possible layoffs and rapid technological change.
According to a Pennsylvania State University Study by Daphne M. Davis and Jeffrey A. Hayes, companies who implement mindfulness witness decreased reactivity from their employees and more emotional regulation. Employees become more flexible to challenges and change and have increased interpersonal benefits.
How to Implement Mindfulness Practice in Your Workplace
How can you implement mindfulness practice in your workplace? Start by offering training in meditation and mindful breathing techniques. Create a fun workshop that will encourage acceptance of this practice, which for many people, can be strange and easily ridiculed.
Discourage multi-tasking as a corporate practice. Encourage focusing on the task at hand. Once a group of workers open to the concept have been trained, support their efforts by creating work policies and places that encourage meditation.
If your climate permits it, create a mediation garden on your grounds where employees feeling stressed can step outside into the air and enjoy a short meditation or even take time to slowly breathe in and out three times to regain their connection to the present.
Encourage acceptance of the concept by building a team of mindful leaders as well.
Share with us your thoughts regarding mindfulness and whether it will make a change in your organization’s corporate climate.
About the Author
Roz Bahrami is a regular contributor to websites related to corporate training, L&D and HR technology, including SkyPrep, an online training software for companies to train employees and measure results.