When critical deadlines loom, it can be easy to get caught up in anxious thoughts. And dealing with urgent emails, meetings, phone calls, and presentations can all contribute to a stressful working environment. Combine that with a poor desk set-up, backache, and screen fatigue, and productivity can soon plummet.
However, encouraging workplace mindfulness through regular practice, like an organised mindfulness workshop, can help your teams manage a busy workload and stay motivated. By training the mind to focus on the now, your employees remain in the present moment. In turn, this can increase engagement and work satisfaction and stay grounded during times of stress.
Mindfulness grew out of Buddhist meditation and has become a practice to reduce stress, cultivate focus and reduce confrontation. In essence, it's the practice of bringing your attention to the present moment. That could be through meditation, breathing exercises or taking a break.
Organisations, including the NHS and Google, are turning to mindfulness to train the brain to stay focused. Regular practice has been shown to improve attention regulation by focusing on thoughts, emotions and physical sensations without distraction or assumptions.
Mindfulness can also help teams take a step back from a stressful situation and find a new perspective. For example, it can help your employees take charge of their emotions to deal appropriately with workplace conflicts.
Mindfulness in the office can help employees manage their workplace frustrations, communicate more effectively and focus on the task at hand. There are several ways you can encourage mindfulness in the work environment:
Why not start with introducing short mindfulness exercises that team members can use throughout the day? Activities like guided meditation encourage the brain to access a mindfulness state quickly. For example, your teams can practise the S.T.O.P. exercise in around a minute:
In addition, at the start and close of a meeting, give your team members a few minutes of silence. This helps employees bring themselves to the present moment and transition in and out of the situation.
Providing staff with a comfortable and quiet space is another way to bring mindfulness into the workplace. Encourage team members to leave their phones behind and practice simple mindfulness meditation in the morning to encourage a calm and peaceful start to the day.
If a dedicated quiet space isn't possible, encourage staff to close their laptops and place their feet on the ground to connect with their environment. Then scan the body from the feet upwards to come into the present moment.
Your teams may feel they can't afford to take a break. But productivity studies have shown that workers who take frequent short breaks are more productive. This is because the brain naturally works in high activity for around an hour, then switches briefly to low activity, ready for a mindfulness break.
Regular breaks will also give DSE workers time away from their computer screens, reducing the risk of eye strain.
Encourage teams to set an hourly timer and then practice a mindfulness exercise. For example, you could try a minute's breathing, a short meditation or a mindful walk. This practice is particularly productive in the afternoon, as the brain and body tire naturally and get work fatigue.
There's no shortage of mindfulness apps and tools that you can recommend to staff. Most apps offer a free subscription, with additional content available for a fee. Popular apps like Calm and Headspace offer guided meditations that can make a difference in coping with daily stressors. In addition, they can be a useful entry point into mindfulness for your teams.
Investing in mindfulness apps and tools should be regarded as part of a broader wellbeing plan for your teams. However, they can also be a successful way to encourage empathetic communication for remote workers.
Encouraging workplace mindfulness doesn't have to be a solitary activity. For example, organising a mindfulness workshop allows your teams to engage more fully with meditation by discussing each session with peers in a social environment.
Unlike ergonomics, which deals predominantly with physical stress, wellbeing also focuses on mental health. And by improving resilience and emotional intelligence, your teams are better equipped to overcome obstacles and challenges at work.
The best way to support your team is with a holistic approach. You want to ensure they are physically comfortable and safe – by arranging a DSE assessment and providing them with the correct desk configuration – but it’s also vital to consider their mental health and wellbeing. Workplace mindfulness is an excellent way to do so, and it can pay dividends in productivity.