Mindfulness At Work: Its Benefits For Focus And Productivity

Mindfulness at work brings benefits for your employees and your business. Discover how it can boost productivity and get tips on implementing mindfulness techniques in the workplace.

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What is mindfulness?

The practice of mindfulness is about purposely focusing your attention on the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to what is happening in the world around you. With our increasingly hectic lives, the technique of mindfulness is intended to make us pause, get perspective and re-focus.

With a recent Nielsen report on media consumption in the US showing almost half of adults ‘very often’ or ‘always’ use a second screen while watching TV, even our downtime can leave us over-stimulated. With increasing interest in the benefits of mindfulness, it’s now being examined scientifically and with a growing body of research, has been found to be a key element in reducing stress and anxiety, and improving the regulation of our emotions.


The growing popularity of mindfulness programmes

In recent years the popularity of mindfulness has grown hugely, and it’s become mainstream – from Google to Nike, the NHS, Apple and Goldman Sachs, more and more companies are including mindfulness in their employee development programmes.

In 2016, 22% of employers reported having mindfulness training programmes already in place, with another 21% planning to add a mindfulness training component the following year. The idea behind mindfulness training is that it will enable employees to manage stress levels and improve their memory and focus. Not sure it’s not worth the investment, or if it’s the right fit for your workforce? Hold that thought.


Mindfulness at work: productivity and decision-making benefits

Research has shown that employees who work long hours ‘have a higher risk of stroke than those working standard hours”. In a culture of overwork, burnout becomes inevitable. This can then lead to a significant reduction in the motivation and productivity of your employees.

Employees are being asked to do more than ever before, working longer in the office, with many answering calls and emails on the commute or at weekends. When rushing from one task to another, employees may appear to be productive, but the reality is they probably aren’t working efficiently or effectively - and a reactive or rushed decision is often regretted. Mindfulness techniques can help employees to manage their workload better, and a lack of distraction should boost productivity. Mindfulness puts you back in control; it enables you to take a step back and consider different perspective, to choose the more appropriate response.

Mindfulness expert Mirabai Bush, who introduced it to Google, says: "Introducing mindfulness into the workplace does not prevent conflict from arising or difficult issues from coming up. But when difficult issues do arise... they are more likely to be skilfully acknowledged, held, and responded to by the group.’

Since its introduction in 2007, Google’s Search Inside Yourself mindfulness and emotional intelligence programme has been proven to ‘reduce stress, improve focus, raise peak performance, and improve interpersonal relationships.’ It’s been so successful, it’s now offered to individuals and organisations outside of Google, with a six-month waiting list.


Mindfulness hacks for the workplace

Many companies don’t have the resource or budget to implement their own mindfulness programme, so here are some ideas you can implement in your business.

  1. Single-tasking
    When trying to multi-task – which is doing more than one task at a time, or shifting between tasks - your brain is constantly switching from one thing to the other, and can lose data in the process. It’s generally accepted that multitasking is ineffective, so why do people still do it? A study by Zheng Wang at Ohio State University tracked students and found that when they multi-tasked, it made them feel more productive, even though in reality they were not being productive. Encourage employees to block out time in their diaries for particular tasks, and to resist the urge to jump between multiple things at once.

  2. Mindful Breaks
    Staring at a screen for too long can cause insomnia, short-term memory loss, headaches and vision strain. Screen fatigue is not going to make your employees happy, or productive – so encourage them to take a break. Even just ten minutes away from your desk and devices can be refreshing, allowing employees to engage with their surroundings, and focus. Many companies have ‘tech-free’ spaces for this purpose, allowing employees to de-stress and re-energize during the working day.

  3. Mindfulness Podcasts & Apps
    With an almost limitless supply of podcasts, you can access a huge variety of content on topics like mindfulness and meditation. There are also several apps available which deliver short guided meditations – ideal for listening to during the commute, and a great way for your employees to set the right frame of mind for their day. Taking yourself away from the noise around you, with a podcast or meditative episode, can help you find your centre and focus on your tasks. We like Binaural, which generates beats to help you sleep, meditate and concentrate.

Want to know more about the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace? Read our article on mindfulness and wellbeing here.


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