Work demands a lot from the people in your organization. In fact, it often demands the best of them.
Between clock-in and clock-out, it’s not uncommon for people to be tested on their decision-making, creativity, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills—all while feeling the weight of high stakes.
As an HR leader, you not only want to support your people when they’re struggling—you also want to actively equip them to do their best work: their happiest work, their most engaged work, their most skillful work. No matter where someone is on the mental health spectrum, you want them to hit their goals, to grow in their roles, and be better than when they joined your organization.
The thing is: these lofty outcomes aren’t really outcomes. They’re a side effect of improved processes. But when everyone and every job is different, how can you help improve the actual experience of working? The simple answer is: by cultivating mindfulness.
What does mindfulness at work mean?
Oftentimes at work, people can find themselves in a sort of unconscious auto-pilot, going through their tasks with a shallow, drifting focus. When work feels like something you have to do, rather than what you want to do—it’s rarely an inspiring experience.
Cultivating mindfulness means shifting into a state of focused attention—to be present and conscious of one’s surroundings, feelings, and actions. At work, that can manifest as being wholly engaged in whatever one is doing in the moment. Inhabiting that state can help protect against the distorting effects of stress and distraction, and contribute to a happier, more creative work process. It can help us make better decisions, communicate better with our team and give us confidence to innovate.
Simply put: focused, enjoyable work can often be achieved not by changing the task at hand, but by shifting one’s mindset, and thus the actual experience of the task.
What does mindfulness offer employees?
It’s a common misconception that mindfulness means attaining a level of momentary peace that inevitably gets dashed against the more stressful realities of our routines. In fact, the benefits of mindfulness last well beyond the time spent practicing it!
One study shows that participants in a seven-week period of mindfulness training retained significant benefits even four years after the fact. What’s more, the benefits of mindfulness actually shine brightest against a demanding backdrop like the workplace.
Here’s what increased mindfulness can offer your team:
Increased happiness and well-being
Simply put: it feels good to be present. Not only that, but that happiness is proven to extend beyond the moment and ripple throughout daily life.
Research has shown that 47% of our time is spent with a wandering mind. That time spent with unfocused, drifting thoughts contributes directly to increased unhappiness—especially at work, where people are counting on you to be productive. Cultivating mindfulness, even briefly, helps sharpen focus in a lasting way.
There’s been quite a bit of published literature showing the positive link between mindfulness and creativity. In short, when your mind is clear and receptive, new and original ideas tend to come easier. In the workplace, this can have applications anywhere from problem-solving, to decision-making, to creative work (go figure).
Strengthened resilience and stress management
Mindfulness is proven to increase resilience to stress at a time when 40% of U.S. adults have had pandemic-related stress affect their mental health. What’s more, Calm’s mindfulness exercises help support well-being by reducing stress itself.
More emotional balance
Emotions play a big role in the workplace. Cultivating mindfulness improves emotional processing in your team—meaning they’ll be less susceptible to emotional intensity and bias.
Quantity and quality of sleep both heavily play into determining mental well-being, and can massively impact the workday. Mindfulness meditations can help significantly improve sleep quality and keep trudging workdays at bay.
Better work relationships
Finally, when these aforementioned benefits are shared across your whole team—the result is smoother collaboration, better communication, and a happier collective.
How can HR leaders help cultivate mindfulness in their organization?
Give them a reason to get curious.
It’s important to educate your team on the benefits of mindfulness—they have to genuinely want to cultivate it in their own lives. After all, no one can be dragged into mindfulness! It has to start as an authentic intention before it becomes a helpful habit.
What you practice with intention creates a repeated state that will then become a trait that can work in the background without your effort or conscious energy.
Author of Aware: The Science and Practice of Presence
Offer mindfulness training tools.
Meditations, even short ones, can help cultivate mindfulness throughout the workday. Even for novice meditators, guided body scans or brief breathing exercises can act as a reset and help bring your people into a mindful state – one that persists long after the meditation ends.
The research is clear: multitasking kills productivity. It spreads attention thin, facilitates distraction and causes focus to leak like a sieve. By encouraging your people to focus on one task at a time, you’re helping them naturally grow and hone a mindful approach.
When focus squares off with an interruption, the latter often wins. Checking in too much can hamper focus and can curtail employee motivation. On the other hand, stretches of uninterrupted time can be much more conducive to mindful work.
Normalize mindfulness breaks by scheduling unscheduled time.
On a busy day (and aren’t they all?), finding time for self-care can feel tough. Help your people out and schedule short blocks of empty time for your people to have guilt-free moments of walking, breathing, meditating, or just being without any expectation. This can go a long way towards maintaining a sense of mindfulness throughout the day.
Help your people be the best version of themselves.
Equipping your people with tools for mindfulness can elevate their workday and help them work happier, perform better, and live healthier. Mindfulness can help managers and leaders become more effective, too! Try a few simple exercises here.
For more on how you can help your people be at their best, reach out for a Calm demo.