In its simplest form, mindfulness means awareness and is a way of helping us focus on the present moment with a clear and engaged mind.
Mindfulness at work has been pioneered by companies like Google for many years and is now being taken seriously by many businesses. Employee engagement is crucial for improving productivity and better mindfulness is at the core of better engagement. And with employees always being asked to deliver more with increasingly heavy workloads, mindfulness helps them deal with pressure in an effective and constructive way.
We’re more connected than ever been before and it becomes increasingly difficult for us to switch off and recharge. As a result, our productivity tends to plummet which is why practising mindfulness helps employees slow down, focus on the present and, in turn, increase their productivity. Not only does mindfulness encourage employees to think, it also helps employees reduce stress, improve focus, make better decisions, resolve conflicts and improves overall well being.
There are courses specifically dedicated to the art of improving mindfulness, Google’s ‘Search Inside Yourself’ being one of the most famous. However, training ourselves to be more mindful can be done in easy and simple ways. Here are five tips on how you can improve mindfulness at work…
- Breathe. It sounds simple right? But how often do you focus on your breathing, control it and practice it? Breathing sits at the heart of mindfulness. A deep, calming breath will lower your heart rate, blood pressure and ease your tension. It also means you’re free of regret and worry as these are emotions which don’t exist in the present; regret belongs to the past and worry belongs to the future. For the duration of that one breath, you’re given a moment to rest, recover and regain focus.
- Unplug. One of the most frustrating things is when you’re in a meeting with a colleague or a contact and they’re constantly distracted by their phone or tablet. The stream of information most of us receive is incessant so we have to be active in controlling its flow. That means allocating time to unplug and to be in the moment. Whether this is time when you can focus on one particular task at the office or something you can do each evening, practicing it will give your mind a break and you will work all the better for it.
- Show gratitude. It’s amazing what the simple act of showing gratitude does for us and for the people around us. Expressing gratitude helps create a positive culture and will transform the work environment making it a more enjoyable place to be. And these are the environments where individuals and teams thrive.
- Open up. Be more open both physically and emotionally. In a physical capacity, being open is very literal. Walking and stretching through the working day will work wonders for your body. By focusing on our body, we instantly shift into the present. This awareness will again give your mind a brief respite and a chance to realign and refocus. Being emotionally open allows us to communicate more effectively and deal with conflict with sensitivity and empathy. This again falls into having a culture where openness is encouraged and valued.
- Listen. While much of mindfulness is about improving awareness of the self, it also works when we apply it to how we listen to others. Listening is a skill and, like all skills, one we should practice. The next time a colleague or a customer wants to talk to you take your deep, calming breath, centre yourself, make eye contact and then really listen. You’ll be surprised by how it makes you feel and the impact it will have on the person talking to you.
Practicing mindfulness is a way of establishing a positive working environment, engaging employees and ultimately improving company-wide productivity. It’s a small part in a much wider picture where it’s possible to enjoy work, improve the quality of the work being done and see a significant improvement in results and performance.