Mindfulness: The New Morale Booster
Mindfulness is the practice of being in the moment — not dwelling on the past or stressing about the future. This is usually done through short meditations, either individually or as a group, often led by a facilitator who will guide the participants through relaxation and breathing techniques. This technique seems perfectly suited to therapy, stress relief and life coaching, but mindfulness has started to become a tool in the workplace thanks to its many benefits:
Pausing to take a moment and relax the mind is as important as taking a break when your body is tired. If you were gasping for air and your muscles were burning, you would sit down or have a glass of water. But even when people feel burnt out mentally, so few of them show the same care to their brains.
What happens when you run your body to the max without rest or recuperation? You pull muscles, your performance dips and you might even get sick. Guess what: it’s no different with the brain. When you are running your brain at maximum output to solve problems, deal with complex office politics and meet deadlines, you get tired and stressed out.
Practicing mindfulness is one way of bringing your brain back to the moment, and allowing yourself some peace before moving onto the next task. A healthy brain means more focus on the task at hand, more efficient working practices and less sick days.
According to Personnel Today, when Google started offering mindfulness training, many chose not to take it, seeing stress as some sort of badge of honor. In some work environments, it does seem that the more aggravated and under pressure an employee is, the harder they must be working. But of course, that’s not the case. Stress and mental hardship are things to be avoided, not glorified. You wouldn’t be proud of spraining an ankle from running too hard. Nor should you be proud of frazzled nerves and work-related anxiety. They are things to be fixed or prevented, and mindfulness is one key tool on the preventative side.
Mindfulness training, sometimes disguised within leadership or management training to encourage the skeptics, gives employees better mental tools for dealing with stressful situations and high-pressure environments. Mindfulness teaches you not to react, but to observe, understand what is happening in the moment without judgment, and to really absorb the necessary information and let go of the things that don’t help you achieve your goals.
Because mindfulness helps employees deal with situations objectively, it can reduce the instances of emotional reaction and overreaction. Short deadlines can lead to short tempers, but when everyone realizes they are working towards the same goal and can let go of the little irritations, the workplace suddenly becomes a much nicer environment. Office politics can reduce and relationships improve, as people are less worried about what others are thinking about them, and are more inclined to react to situations in a positive way. Happier employees are naturally more productive employees. As morale improves, so will the output of the company.
Some employees or managers might resist mindfulness by insisting that you can’t be productive by doing nothing. However, short periods of doing nothing is exactly what your mind needs. Forbes contributor Drew Hansen recommends spending at least 5 minutes a day doing nothing, as well as slowing your walking pace and really noticing your environment: how warm it is, what you can hear, how the ground feels under your feet. Slowing down and really taking notice stops your mind jumping frenetically from task to task, worrying, fretting and getting worked up.
With companies such as Apple, Deutsche Bank and Google all enjoying the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace, perhaps we all need to find ways to be a bit more mindful at work.