Leading organisations like Apple, Google and Nike have introduced mindfulness into their workplaces. Why? What exactly are the benefits of mindfulness at work?
Mindfulness brings advantages for people at every level of a business, whether you’re a leader looking for new ways of establishing a competitive advantage, a HR professional seeking to prioritise the health of your people, or an employee looking to power your workplace performance.
In practice, mindfulness means tuning into your thoughts and noticing what you’re sensing in the present moment, rather than going back over the past or imagining the future.
Learn more about mindfulness in the video below.
As well as the personal and wellbeing benefits of mindfulness, research is now also shining a light on the benefits of mindfulness at work.
“For many people, practicing mindfulness was thought to be associated with those with poor mental health. But now more and more people are becoming aware of all the performance-related benefits of being mindful. Therefore, as leaders, encouraging your people to practice mindfulness in the workplace is an accessible way to improve performance,” adds Laura Dallas, Head of Product at Champion Health.
Benefits of mindfulness at work
With that in mind, here are 10 benefits of mindfulness at work:
- Stress resilience
- Increased focus
- Higher quality interactions
- Reduced conflict
- Enhanced compassion
- Increased productivity
- Better decision-making
- Improved emotional intelligence
- Enhanced creativity
- Happier people
Read on to explore the research behind each of these 10 benefits of mindfulness at work.
1. Stress resilience
Unfortunately, stress is widespread within our workplace: our employee wellbeing statistics reveal that 76% of professionals are experiencing moderate to high levels of stress.
While mindfulness is not the only way to reduce workplace stress, it can be an effective way to manage your own stress levels and those of your colleagues.
Mindfulness gives employees the skills to manage their stress, by dialling down their reactions to stressful situations. The evidence is there too: research shows that engaging in mindfulness reduces psychological symptoms, lowers emotional reactivity, reduces stress in the body and improves behavioural regulation.
All of these factors increase an employee’s resilience to stress, so that when stressful situations occur, their health and productivity are more resilient to harm.
2. Increased focus
Think of your brain as an old-style radio. Into that radio go thousands of stations that are all trying to play at the same time. When we try to listen to all of them at once, it’s practically impossible to focus on any one song.
With so many competing distractions, it’s common for you and your employees to find it difficult to focus on the task at hand.
In fact, researchers at Harvard University found that we spend 47% of our time thinking about something other than what we are doing. Not only does this mind-wandering stifle our productivity, it also makes us unhappy.
Through improving one’s ability to live in the present, mindfulness will help you – and your people – to cut through the noise and focus on the most pertinent task at hand.
As well as boosting mood, this will also lead to improved work performance through sustained attention and concentration.
3. Higher quality interactions
Effective communication is necessary for us to succeed in the workplace – and it goes without saying that communication is critical in roles that involve supporting others.
Being mindful enables you to be more aware of yourself and of others. It enables you to think before you speak and be more conscious of the words you choose and the reaction of the other person.
These skills are vital for effective and emotionally intelligent communication. That’s why research has linked mindfulness to the ability of leaders to communicate in a way which shows humility, empathy and authenticity and elicit a positive response from others.
4. Reduced Conflict
Challenges and differences in opinion are inevitable when working in a team. However, research by the University of British Colombia suggests some of these conflicts can be reduced, or even avoided, through team mindfulness.
They found that team members who engaged in mindfulness were less likely to turn their frustration with a particular task into a personal conflict with their colleagues, as they were more able to stay task focused.
They also found that learning to live in the present reduced the intensity of negative emotions like anger, therefore limiting the chances of conflicts escalating.
Introducing mindfulness into your organisation will not remove all conflict (nor would you want it to), but it will increase the chances of conflict being handled in a healthier and more productive way
5. Enhanced compassion
Mindfulness is consistently linked to higher levels of compassion and empathy, both for oneself and toward others.
For example, Northeastern University found that completing regular 10-minute mindfulness sessions increased the chances of employees giving up their seat on public transport for a stranger by as much as 23%.
When employees bring this type of connection and compassion into their workplace relationships, they will develop a better understanding of both their colleagues and the people they’re delivering a service to – all of which will lead to better business outcomes.
6. Increased productivity
For many of us, the working day is spent juggling deadlines, distractions, relationships and other stressors which all compete for attention at the same time.
To deal with those pressures, your workers will often resort to multitasking. This may sound positive, but multitasking is known as a less productive way to work.
By practicing coming back to the present moment, you and your colleagues can learn to take care of one thing at a time. And by becoming single-taskers rather than multi-taskers, they can boost their efficiency and productivity as well as the quality of their work.
For example, when employees at American health insurer Aetna took part in at least one mindfulness activity, they gained on average 62 minutes per week of productivity. The leadership team at Aetna estimated that this was worth £2,400 per employee per year.
7. Better decision-making
In 2012, over 500 employees from the multinational manufacturer General Mills attended a mindful leadership program. Following completion of the program, 80% reported a positive change in their ability to make better decisions.
Mindfulness increases your awareness of yourself and what’s going on around you. This awareness improves decision-making by making it more thoughtful, reflective and measured, rather than based on impulsive or less skilful habitual reactions.
Research also shows that mindfulness helps employees:
- Identify when a decision should be made
- Gather the information necessary to make the right choice
- Accept more willingly and learn from feedback
8. Improved emotional intelligence
Mindfulness has been found to help develop skills that are key for emotional intelligence, a vital skill for employees in leadership positions
Research shows mindfulness improves emotional intelligence by helping people develop awareness of their own emotions, understand the emotions of others and increase feelings of closeness between people.
Google has invested extensively in this area and has even developed a mindfulness program which is specifically targeted at teaching their employees emotional intelligence through mindfulness.
9. Enhanced creativity
For the modern company, innovation and creativity is often essential. Research shows that mindfulness helps your employees enter a creative state of mind much faster.
By enabling your people to focus on the present, mindfulness can act as a buffer against intrusive thoughts (often associated with the past or the future) that hinder creative thinking. This can work to create the mind space your people need to think freely and bounce ideas around.
Such is the creative power of mindfulness, Google, Goldman Sachs and Apple are all now using mindfulness techniques to enhance their employees’ innovation.
10. Happier people
As well as the professional benefits we’ve mentioned in this article, mindfulness is also linked to a wide array of personal benefits, including reduced depression, improved physical health and better sleep.
Add in reduced stress, better relationships, improved work performance and a calmer mind, and the research paints a clear picture.
Quite simply, mindful people are happier people and mindful teams are happier teams.
Mindfulness: it’s a must-have
Mindfulness keeps your employees’ brains healthy, while increasing their productivity. It reduces their stress while enhancing their creativity. And it even allows for closer relationships while improving decision-making. Clearly, the professional benefits offered by mindfulness are too great to ignore.