Mindfulness at work: why it’s important and how to introduce it in the workplace



Read time
8 mins

Devising a mindfulness at work programme won’t only benefit employees’ wellbeing, but also help your organisation succeed. Here’s how to do it

The workplace can be a stressful environment, no matter your role. You’ll have numerous tasks to complete at the same time, urgent jobs will come your way when your to-do list is already long, and you may be wondering if you’ll have the same kind of day again tomorrow. So what can you do to alleviate stress in the workplace and anxiety and boost mental health at work – not just for you, but your colleagues as well?

Mindfulness may be an option for your organisation to explore, as it can reduce stress, boost wellbeing, and promote a calmer environment. These will benefit your workforce as their quality of work improves and their focus increases. Your employees can start doing this on their own, or you can introduce a mindfulness programme. So we’ll delve into what mindfulness truly means, its benefits, and how you can implement this culture into your brand.

What is mindfulness?

According to mental health charity Mind, mindfulness is a technique you learn so you notice what’s happening in the moment without judgement. It involves being aware of your mind, body, or surroundings.

Mind states the aim of mindfulness is to be more self-aware, feel less stressed and calmer, and be kinder to yourself. It can also help you feel that you can choose your response to your own thoughts and feelings, and cope with difficult thoughts. Many people who practise mindfulness say it helps them manage their wellbeing each day.

Our minds wander a lot of the time  – you’ve probably thought of the past or the future a few times today already, or even been daydreaming or worrying – but meditation is a way to train the mind, and bring you back into the present. It helps give us the tools needed to be less stressed, feel calmer, plus be kinder to ourselves and those in our lives.

Mindfulness can help us boost our focus on tasks. The quality of our work can be affected if we go from one item to another but, by practising mindfulness, we can train ourselves to improve focus by coming back into the present moment. Dan Harris, the author of 10 Percent Happier, calls this “attention training”. “ The neuroscience shows that this daily exercise can boost the areas of the brain that have to do with attention regulation,” he said in a New York Times article. “Multitasking is a pernicious myth that is preventing us from getting our work done.”

Another important part of mindfulness is beginning to reconnect with our bodies , and what sensations they feel. This can mean being aware of our senses in the present moment, such as smells, sights, sounds and tastes – even if that’s just the feel of a banister as you go up the stairs.

This process can help us to be more aware of our thoughts and feelings, and how we can get caught up in these unhelpful habits. Mindfulness can let us check our thoughts and notice certain patterns emerge – and so, over time, we can realise when our thoughts are taking over and these events don’t control us. It can help us deal with problems or issues more productively.

The Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction  (MBSR) programme at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center has found numerous benefits of mindfulness through its research. These include:

  • Boosting cognitive ability and slowing brain ageing
  • Increasing your wellbeing
  • Improving quality of life for those with chronic conditions
  • Helping pain management
  • Reducing symptoms of anxiety, depression and stress

The easiest way to practise mindfulness is by focusing on your breathing, turning your attention to when you inhale and then exhale. And it can be used in most situations to bring you back into the present continually.

Yet there are other ways you can introduce mindfulness – and there are so many ways you can practice it. You can try different techniques that can work best for you, such as mindful eating or doodling. Or you could try mindful walking, or even mindful commuting.

How to introduce mindfulness at work

Since mindfulness includes noticing what’s happening around you without analysing, evaluating or reflecting on it, being a mindful employee involves taking in what’s happening in the work environment and not reacting to it. Being mindful in the workplace is just taking in those details from your surroundings, and taking a non-judgemental attitude towards your tasks, co-workers, and managers.

Because (according to Hülsheger et al, 2013), mindfulness is also a natural human capacity, its strength can vary depending on the person and the circumstances. In the workplace, this may mean a person pays attention and is non-judgmental in a meeting. Yet they may return to their computer and be less mindful, and end up thinking about what to have for their next meal.

Someone can still be mindful, but this may not be constant and can vary. Mindfulness has its place in the working environment and can offer numerous benefits to brands and their employees. So how can you introduce mindfulness in your workplace? Here are three ways you could start with, and how it can benefit you and your colleagues.

Tailor your approach to fit your company culture

When introducing mindfulness at work, it’s important to amend your approach to fit your company culture. In some organisations, people may be receptive to formally arranged meditation sessions led by a trained instructor, while others may prefer a more informal approach, such as encouraging employees to take breaks during the day to go for a walk or practice some deep breathing exercises. There is no one-size-fits-all solution; what matters most is you choose an approach that will be well-received by your employees.

While an organisation’s culture is the product (and combination of) its values, and the way employees behave and work, a mindfulness culture is a distinct type of culture that promotes and encourages out a mindful approach to work. It is just one of many values for an organisation to consider embracing.

Take Aetna, a US-based health insurance company. It has taken a holistic approach to developing a mindful brand – and it’s changed the culture of its business. This shift changed when CEO Mark T Bertolini developed a practice of yoga and mindfulness meditation following a skiing accident, and conventional treatments didn’t help with pain management. He wanted employees to benefit from these practices.

These yoga and mindfulness programmes are optional, as they should be in a mindful organisation, but Aetna found that those who took part in the programme had a 28% decrease in stress levels and 20% improvement in sleep quality. Compassionate leadership is also needed to develop that mindful culture, too.

Offer training and resources

If you want employees to give mindfulness a try, it’s important to offer training and resources to help them get started. There are many books, articles, apps, and websites available with guidance on mindfulness practices. You may even want to consider bringing in a qualified instructor to lead some sessions on mindfulness meditation. Make resources accessible to employees and you’ll increase the chances they’ll give mindfulness a try – and see how it can benefit them both professionally and personally.

Encourage employee feedback

Finally, once you’ve introduced mindfulness at work, encourage employee feedback along the way. You can check what’s working and what isn’t, and make adjustments as needed. The goal is to create a workplace environment where employees feel supported in their efforts to manage stress and be productive members of the team. With regular feedback from employees, you can make sure that your mindfulness programme is meeting its objectives and making a positive impact on your workplace culture.

Kai Stowers, organisation transformation and change specialist at semiconductor manufacturer Infineon, says: “It’s crucial to understand the audience, know their values and speak in language that resonates with them… I cannot emphasise enough the importance of actively seeking feedback and using it to improve your mindfulness programme.”

Mindfulness can offer a number of benefits to us in our day-to-day lives, and some of these can be transferred into the workplace. Being more aware of the present moment can help employees to be calmer, be more compassionate, and improve focus.

There are plenty of ways mindfulness can be implemented into the workplace, so there are numerous options available so everyone can choose the best option for them – if they wish to take part. If you want a greater insight into how your employees are feeling – or your absence rates – Ciphr’s HR solutions are here to help. To see our employee sentiment tool in action, book a demo or download our brochure to find out more.