As staff become increasingly busy and juggle numerous tasks, experts contend mindfulness is a skill that can boost workplace productivity and encourage better staff relations.
As workplace tasks and technology have increased in recent years, employees have been forced to split their attention on multiple priorities. To improve productivity and reduce conflict among staff, organizations are starting to offer mindfulness training to employees.
“The truth is, mindfulness improves everything, not just the workplace, but individual lives,” said Judith T. Krauthamer, principal of Quietspace Coaching, a coaching practice that specializes in incorporating mindfulness techniques. “Who we are gets carried into the workplace. How mindfulness and mindful meditation works in the workplace is it calms the body and the mind.”
Many well-known companies, like Google, Nike and Apple, have implemented mindfulness programs to help their workers and bring this skill to the forefront.
For those unfamiliar with the practice, Krauthamer said the simplest way to define mindfulness is “being consciously aware in the present moment of life around you.” When staff are present and focused, they can get more done. Mindfulness, Krauthamer said, also includes being “present without judgment.” She offered an example of how this skill might be used during the workday.
“Let’s say the boss or manager came into work this morning and didn’t say, ‘Hello,’” Krauthamer said. “You judge, and ask, ‘What did I do wrong?’ There’s anxiety, and you’re not focused on work. With mindfulness, you observe what happened, but you don’t create the narrative or the anxiety.”
With workplaces running at a fast pace, employees too often rush to snap judgments that create anxiety. “Most judgments—whether it’s about a project or the person you’re working with—are made-up stories; they’re not true,” she said. “With mindfulness, you don’t have the brain waves to create that story.”
Ideally, organizations would create strong mindfulness programs that are consistent and available for all employees. What Krauthamer has seen in practice is a mixed bag, with larger organizations being more intentional with mindfulness and smaller ones letting employees take the lead.
“The difficulty in establishing mindfulness programs for small organizations is it’s often on a volunteer basis,” she said. “What you will find is there will be one of two people who want to start [it], and it will spread by word of mouth. Then, the executive director finds that things at the workplace are getting better, and [the program] gets encouraged.”
In larger organizations, mindfulness is usually driven from the top down with formal, HR-run programs. “That is their project and they make sure every other Wednesday, the mindfulness meditation happens,” Krauthamer said.
A recent Harvard Business Review article noted that “team mindfulness” training, which focuses on a group of people being mindful about team objectives, was particularly effective in reducing conflict and improving work. Krauthamer noted this research is important in the association space.
“They used the word team because that’s a business word,” Krauthamer said. “When you break that down, it’s really about community. Associations are large groups of a specific community. There is value in sharing with others and talking with others. It is how we reinforce it. That really is what associations are about.”
While some people think of mindfulness as a touchy-feely fad that will soon fade, Krauthamer said this skill, while new to the workforce, is steeped in history and here to stay. “Some of these practices go back thousands of years,” she said. “It’s not going to go away. It’s like yoga—that started off in the ‘70s as obscure here in the West. But it’s a standard practice now.”