Why mindfulness matters and how to implement it for your employees

The practice of mindfulness is becoming more and more popular, with many famous athletes, actors and CEOs endorsing it. But what exactly is it, and how can it help your business?  Mindfulness, defined by Mindful magazine, is:

the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”

Put simply, it just means being aware, paying attention to what you’re doing and why and avoiding being too reactive. These acts of mindfulness aren’t just useful in personal lives, but are incredibly beneficial in the workplace too, both for the employee and the business.

The benefits of mindfulness on employee wellbeing
A lot of research into mindfulness has looked at its positive effects on wellbeing. The mental health charity Mind states mindfulness can help people:

  • Manage unhelpful thoughts
  • Develop more useful responses to difficult events
  • Be kinder towards oneself
  • Feel calmer
  • Better manage stress
  • Assist and better teamwork
  • Improve leadership skills.

Studies also show that practicing mindfulness can help employees manage mild depression, anxiety and other common mental health problems1.

Encouraging employees to look after their wellbeing also shows that the company cares about them, which in turn can make them feel happier and more engaged at work. And, people who are happy at work tend to enjoy life more, have stronger relationships and a greater sense of purpose.

The benefits of mindfulness on the business
Whilst the majority of research to date focuses on how mindfulness improves employee wellbeing, there is a growing body of research which centres on the benefits of mindfulness within the workplace. For example, it’s been reported in HR magazine that mindfulness prevents burnout, promotes job satisfaction and can facilitate better performance, as well as increasing memory and concentration levels.

Mindfulness training could also make employees more effective workplace learners and may even help to increase their IQ, according to an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. Mindfulness training has also been linked to heightened emotional intelligence, improved decision-making and strategic thinking abilities, better focus and enhanced creativity.

Considering this enviable list of perks, it’s perhaps unsurprising that many big businesses including Google, GlaxoSmithKline and Goldman Sachs are choosing to promote mindfulness within the workplace.  And the results are impressive. Transport for London (TfL) has seen stress, anxiety and depression related absence fall by a staggering 71% since introducing employees to mindfulness.

Promoting mindfulness in the workplace

If you’re interested in utilising mindfulness here are a few ways you can begin to introduce it to your employees: 

Make a business case
In order for this to work, you’ll need senior management buy-in. To do this you’ll need to build a business case and address concerns specific to your industry and company. Highlight how bringing mindfulness training into your health and wellbeing program will solve or improve issues such as high stress levels or high rates of mental health related absence.

Educate employees
Many employees remain in the dark about the benefits of mindfulness. It will be your job to educate them and show how mindfulness can help them cope and perform in the workplace, as well as benefit the rest of their life as well. You may like to facilitate this through a meeting where you can introduce employees to the relevant research and proven benefits, and outline the ways in which you could help them approach mindfulness.

Provide formal mindfulness training
There are a number of different mindfulness training sessions available, ranging from ½ day courses to sessions over an 8-week period, and many training companies will work with you to develop a course that fits your needs and budget. You could also try an hour-long bite-size session which could be useful to gauge initial interest and feedback.

Promote mindfulness within the workplace
Reinforce formal training with complementary workplace practices. Again, you’ll tailor these to fit the specific needs of your business but they could include ideas such as banning phones from meetings, offering free meditation apps or even simply encouraging taking regular breaks away from computer screens. Alternatively, you could arrange for weekly/ monthly meditation sessions in the workplace.

However you approach it, encouraging mindfulness at work is a step in the right direction for the wellbeing of your workplace. By helping them gain the tools to manage their wellbeing you’ll help them perform better in their role. Planning to give it a go? Let us know how you get on through Twitter or LinkedIn using #mindfulness!

This content originally appeared on Benenden’s workplace hub where employers can find a range of related articles to help with their health and wellbeing strategy.