You’re late to work. Again.
And as you slump into your chair and take a glance at your schedule, you’re greeted by a mountain of tasks with your name on them. Oh boy.
It’s barely 8:05, and you’re already feeling overwhelmed.
And that’s not your only hurdle. Today just happens to be the day when everyone needs your help, leaving you with no personal time at all.
If this feels all too familiar, consider practicing mindfulness at work, as doing so could improve your day significantly. The benefits include heightened awareness, laser-sharp clarity, and unwavering focus — not to mention sweet relief from stress.
Whether you’re a mindfulness novice or a seasoned pro, this article will help you see why this practice is so beneficial for employees and leaders alike.
Let’s get started.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is like a torch that shines a light on the present moment. This “torch” allows us to see and experience the moment fully without dwelling in the past or worrying about the future.
When we practice mindfulness, we’re training our brains to notice our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment without judgment. There’s no right or wrong, favorable or unfavorable — things simply exist.
Benefits of mindfulness in the workplace
Being mindful in the workplace has many benefits, some of which we’ll describe below.
Workplaces often resemble pressure cookers, where stress boils and bubbles under the heat of demanding tasks and high expectations. Whether you’re on the frontlines dealing with the public or working from the comfort of your own home, chances are you’ve experienced the weight of stress.
And technology doesn’t always help, either.
Apps bombard us with notifications and drown us in a sea of information. This often extends into off-work hours, sometimes to the point where we just can’t catch a break. With such relentless demand for our attention, is it any wonder that we often find ourselves stressed, anxious, and easily distracted?
According to the American Institute of Stress (AIS), 62% of employees suffer from high levels of stress, which are often accompanied by extreme fatigue and a sense of being out of control. Workload accounts for 41% of this stress, while people issues contribute to 32%. The balancing act of work and personal life weighs in at 18%, and job security concerns account for 9%.
Unfortunately, stress takes its toll on employee attendance.
54% of employees miss one to two days per year due to stress, while 31% miss three to six days annually. A further 15% miss more than six days each year. For small businesses, even a small dip in attendance can do a number on your bottom line.
Mindfulness is a powerful tool through which to combat this stress epidemic. By cultivating it, we learn to regulate our negative emotions, enabling us to respond to stress more effectively. Research even suggests that mindfulness practices can reduce the production of the "stress hormone" cortisol.
There are so many things vying for our attention these days — emails, apps, and even our colleagues. And how well do we deal with this information overload? Not very.
Like the mesmerized followers of the Pied Piper, anything new and shiny easily sways us. Even if we resist the initial distraction, its presence often lingers in our minds, disrupting our concentration. This issue is so severe that a staggering 71% of employees struggle to maintain focus at work.
Mindfulness anchors us back to the task at hand — the one we’re supposed to be doing right now. When we constantly flit between tasks or multitask, our attention becomes diluted, and our work suffers as a result.
Once we notice our attention slipping, we can gently nudge it back into the present through mindfulness — essentially training our brains to become more focused. This then enables us to deliver higher-quality work and escape the constant feeling of time slipping away, ultimately benefiting both our mental health and productivity.
Unlike friendships, you don’t choose your colleagues. (Well, not unless you’re the boss.) And sometimes, your employees will do things that confound you. In those situations, mindfulness instead of frustration can help.
Mindfulness has been shown to increase empathy, patience, and acceptance, all of which are key ingredients for building strong interpersonal relationships. And by promoting active listening and moment awareness, mindfulness also bolsters workplace communication and collaboration.
Businesses thrive when everyone works well together. In fact, new hires who collaborate with their colleagues on projects are 65% more likely to remain with the company compared to those who work in isolation.
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably had a few stumbling blocks in life. Unfortunately, many people tend to fixate on past disappointments and even anticipate future misfortunes.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back after facing a setback.
Since mindfulness enables us to focus on the present, we’re less likely to dwell on the past or worry about the future. This boosts our ability to weather adversity when it strikes.
Mindfulness also gives us greater flexibility in the way we respond to negative situations. Because it’s all about noticing without judging, we’re no longer wedded to one way of doing things or doing things the way they “should” be done. That allows us to take in new information, adjust, and adapt.
Mindfulness also has the added benefit of supporting emotion regulation, an essential component of self-control. All of this makes us better at tolerating uncertainty, which is indispensable to resilience.
How to practice mindfulness at work
While there are many benefits to being mindful at work, you need regular practice to really see its effects. It’s not a quick fix. Here are some practical ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily work routine.
Do mindfulness exercises
There are many mindfulness meditations you can do to feel better at work. Here are a few of them:
Meditate for one minute when you get to the office
Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Take a deep breath in, then slowly exhale. Try not to think about anything else. If any unwanted thoughts enter your head, acknowledge them, then send them on their way. Return your focus to your breathing.
You can use this one-minute meditation to give your brain a break before switching tasks or bring yourself back to the present when you’re distracted.
Use the STOP technique when you experience moments of stress
S: Stop whatever you’re doing. It doesn’t matter how important or trivial it is — just put it on pause for now.
T: Take a breath. Focusing on your breath brings you back to the present moment.
O: Observe. Notice what’s going on in and around you. What are you thinking? How are you feeling? What are you doing? Make a note of it without judgment.
P: Proceed. Continue with what you were doing. Or do something else if you find that continuing is no longer the best course of action.
Use these practices to take a mindful moment whenever you're experiencing emotional exhaustion in your daily life.
Check your emails less often
Emails often create a false sense of urgency, leading to unnecessary distractions.
Even though they’re low-value tasks, checking and responding to emails offers a fleeting sense of productivity because they’re easy to accomplish and make us seem busy. In reality, though, they take our attention away from the high-priority tasks that truly drive productivity.
Research shows that employees experienced lower stress levels when they checked their emails only three times a day compared to an unlimited number of times.
To regain control of your time and attention, block out a dedicated time to check and answer emails. Even then, try to focus on only the important messages — there’s a lot of junk out there.
Hold mindful meetings
To nobody’s surprise, meetings dominate our workdays.
CEOs, for instance, spend roughly 72% of their work time in meetings, with many lasting an hour or longer. The average professional also dedicates three hours a week to meetings. That's a substantial time investment!
It should also be noted that many employees consider at least two-thirds of these meetings unnecessary or a waste of time.
It’s essential to be intentional and mindful during meetings, as this maximizes their value. If you can make a meeting shorter, great. But that isn’t always possible. In that case, clarify your meeting’s goal and stay on topic.
Don’t schedule back-to-back meetings, either. Studies from Microsoft show that having consecutive meetings increases employees’ stress levels. But when employees are allowed to take a short break, this lets their brains “reset.” As a result, they go into their next meeting in a more relaxed state.
Take regular breaks
We’ve been sold the idea that, in order to increase productivity, we must work ourselves to the bone. That’s simply not true, and that mindset can hinder your effectiveness.
Humans need to take a break every so often to perform at their best — it’s baked right into our DNA. Similar to other biological processes, our brain waves follow ultradian rhythms, encompassing cycles that repeat within a 24-hour period.
We generally do our best work in these cycles — roughly 90 minutes of high-frequency brain activity followed by roughly 20 minutes of lower-frequency brain activity. After 90 minutes, we hit what’s called an “ultradian dip,” when our energy drops.
It’s crucial to take a break after each 90-minute work period to maintain optimal performance. Not doing so can trigger the fight-or-flight response, which causes the parts of the brain that handle logic to become less active. Consequently, our performance suffers, and the quality of our work diminishes.
How to be a mindful leader
Leadership is important in any organization, but especially so in small businesses. In such an environment, many employees take their cues on how to behave from their leaders. Therefore, to inspire mindfulness at work, it must start at the top.
According to research by McKinsey, 70% of employees associate their sense of purpose with their work. However, while 85% of executives and upper management say they’re living their purpose at work, only 15% of frontline managers and frontline employees agree.
To close this gap, start by defining your company’s purpose. Think about what impact you want your company to make in the world. Employees are five times more excited to work at a company that reflects on the impact it makes.
Be an authentic, compassionate, and respectful leader.
Take some time to connect with your employees and help them out when they need it. Develop a culture of health and well-being, recognizing that 36% of employees want daily breaks and a devoted “self-care day” every month, and 34% would like a dedicated “meeting-free” day every week.
Let Motion take the stress off your team
You arrive at work to greet your heavy task load — but it’s no longer intimidating.
Your colleagues have questions, clients are emailing you, and you’ll probably be busy all day. But that doesn’t bother you. You take a deep breath as you settle into your desk and get started with the serenity and calm of someone who knows they can handle things.
Your team can’t help but marvel at how much you’ve changed. And because you’ve encouraged them to practice mindfulness at work, they’re more engaged, less stressed, and work better together, too. They’re so much more productive now, and so are you!
But why stop there?
Let Motion take even more off your plate by handling low-value, repetitive tasks. It’s super fast because it’s AI-powered, and it’ll make it easier for you to focus on the things that matter — like mindfulness.
Check out Motion’s 7-day free trial today!