Many people often think that mindfulness is a passing "hippie dippy" fad that doesn't provide any real benefits, let alone benefits in the workplace. Research says otherwise. In fact, a recent randomized controlled study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology found that participants who partook in a half day mindfulness training and who continued to practice mindfulness for 6 weeks after, showed reduced work-life conflict, increased job satisfaction, and increased ability to focus their attention (Slutsky, Chin, Raye, & Creswell, 2018)! How can this be? Let's discuss!
How It Works.
In today's world we are constantly on the go, juggling multiple responsibilities, and hit with sensory overload, whether it be our computer screens, phones, traffic, loud sounds, TV, chats, social media, and the list goes on. People are also managing multiple relationships in the workplace and in home life. We are susceptible to burnout, loss of focus and concentration, and neglect of self-care and rest. Although this may be the norm for most people, it can impact their quality of life, their health, their stress levels, and how they perceive their job satisfaction, and at times impacts their performance or productivity.
If particularly stressed, all of these demands and heightened sensory stimulation can have an impact on our nervous system. Our bodies may predominantly be in a state of arousal, without the necessary calm-down time that our bodies and brain need to recalibrate and return to an optimal state of balance. This is the cycle that contributes to burnout, illness, and even depression.
Mindfulness practice includes the deliberate attempt to slow down the mind, calm the nervous system, and restore a sense of peace. A large component of mindfulness is its emphasis on focus and attention, which impacts concentration and a sense of being alert without being overly arroused. A regular mindfulness practice can result in feeling less physically and mentally stressed, more energetic, and better able to concentrate. You can imagine how this can benefit people not only in their personal life but at work as well. Time to explore some of the research!
So it is easy for people to think of the benefits of mindfulness for one's personal health, but how does this impact one's experience of their work-life, and how does mindfulness benefit organizations as a whole? For one, mindfulness can help reduce turnover in an organization. A study published in Human Relations found that mindfulness was negatively related to work turnover. Employees who scored higher on self-report measures of mindfulness were less likely to demonstrate intention to turnover and were more engaged in their work. Similarly, this same study found that there was a positive relationship between mindfulness and work performance as was rated by the employee managers (Dane & Brummel, 2013).
Models of mindfulness in the workplace have also been tested in an effort to examine whether it can help improve employees' quality of sleep. Tested in both the U.S. and in Scandinavia, the mindfulness program included participants who partook in 8 weeks of mindfulness practice, 60 minutes a week with a trained instructor. There was also a control group who did not receive any mindfulness training. The researchers found significant reduction in stress levels, improved sleep duration and quality of sleep, and improvement in work-absorption, which were maintained for at least 8 weeks following the program (Klatt, Norre, Reader, Yodice, & White, 2017).
Leadership can also benefit from mindfulness practice. Mindfulness can help leaders deal with uncertainty (that comes with being responsible for a business and staff) with less judgment of self and others, more patience, and less stress (Raney, 2014). A mindfulness practice can positively influence a leader's attentiveness and awareness, which is beneficial to those whose jobs require attention to detail and precision (Dhiman, 2009). Furthermore, happy leaders is likely to mean happier staff, and happier work environment.
This brief summary of the research on the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace does not do justice to the vast array of research available. This is a small snapshot of how mindfulness can benefit organizations, and there are various ways of employing mindfulness in the workplace as well. If you are interested in learning about how a mindfulness workshop could benefit your organization, schedule a free 30 minute phone consultation using my online calendar.
Dane, E. & Brummel, B.J. (2013). Examining workplace mindfulness and its relation to job performance and turnover intention. Human Relations, 67 (1). pp 1-5-128.
Dhiman, S. (2009). Mindfulness in life and leadership: An exploratory survey. Interbeing, 3(1), pp. 55-80.
Klatt, M., Norre, C., Reader, B., Yodice, L., & White, S. (2017). Mindfulness in motion: a mindfulness-based intervention to reduce stress and enhance quality of sleep in Scandinavian employees. Mindfulness, 8(2), pp. 481-488.
Raney, A.F. (2014). Agility in adversity: Integrating mindfulness and principles of adaptive leadership in the administration of a community mental health center. Clinical Social Work Journal, 42(3), p. 312.
Slutsky, J., Chin, B., Raye, J., & Creswell, J. D. (2018). Mindfulness training improves employee well-being: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. Advance online publication. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/ocp0000132