Mindfulness, also widely associated with ‘Meditation’, has become quite the hype in recent years as a method of relieving stress or healing oneself. But what does mindfulness exactly mean? And why is it even relevant for work, or how will it help businesses be more profitable? To put it in simple words, mindfulness is the ability of being fully present or aware. Being mindful basically means being in the moment. But again, what does “being in the moment” have to do with work? Well, it must probably have quite some significance, as several fortune 500 companies including Google, Apple, Facebook, Nike, General Mills and Goldman Sachs have been providing mindfulness meditation courses to their employees.
Many of us are either starting new entrepreneurial journeys, growing our businesses, or taking up jobs in various fields with hopes of achieving whatever goals we have in life. However, the world we live in links an individual’s success or the success of a business with increased productivity or higher income/ profits. No matter how much we are able to achieve, it never seems to be enough, and the list of things to be done never shortens. The constant need of multitasking to keep up with the extensive workload means that we seldom have time to be in the moment. Stress and anxiety caused by the pressure of having to perform more productively every day, adversely affects our health, ultimately diminishing the very productivity we strive to achieve. Moreover, the overload of information increases distractions and hinders our ability to focus on whatever it is that we are doing. Practicing mindfulness in the workplace as well as in our personal lives allows us to overcome these problems by helping us stay calm in difficult situations, adapt to the situation, and reduce anxiety.
What Does Mindfulness have to offer to the workplace?
Research shows that people who practice mindfulness have experienced less stress, increased cognitive functions and better focus. Instead of having tens of thoughts at once, the practice of mindfulness involves focusing one’s full attention on only one thing at a time. It does not particularly make our challenges disappear like magic, but what it does is that it helps us become more aware of the emotions generated by these challenges. This gives us more choices on ways to handle these emotions and helps us respond more calmly rather than reacting impulsively. This is an extremely important trait for any type of job. Since mindfulness involves focusing on the present moment, our minds wander less, which encourages more effective completion of tasks, increases alertness, boosts productivity as well as promotes teamwork. A 2011 study by Harvard researchers found that mindfulness meditation helps reduce the gray-matter density in the amygdala, which plays an important role in managing anxiety and stress. Similarly, it also helps increase the gray matter density in the hippocampus, which results in better learning and memory retention, along with increased self-awareness, introspection, and compassion. The more focused and calmer we are, the more productive we can get. This recuperative practice can therefore promote long lasting effectiveness for individuals and their respective organizations.
How can mindfulness be practiced in workplaces?
The only problem with practicing mindfulness is that we actually have to do it to reap its benefits. Just like how we getting a ripped body is impossible without physically working out, mindfulness can only be achieved by exercising our minds.
Start Meditating: Meditation is the best way to practice mindfulness. Meditation is not associated with any religion, nor is it about becoming passive or giving up on our goals or future plans. Research actually proves that regular mindfulness meditation can have immense cognitive benefits, from strategic thinking to problem solving, not to mention the increase in focus as well as decrease in stress levels. It only requires a few moments of undivided dedication. There are plenty of techniques we can use to meditate. Some of the most common methods include focusing all our attention on the inflow and outflow of our breath, scanning our entire body from head to toe being aware of every sensation we feel or visualizing a particular object in our minds and focusing on it. These meditation techniques can be practiced anywhere anytime whether at home or in the workplace. As managers or business owners, it would be great if we could create space for meditation at work. Many multinational companies including the World Bank has meditation rooms to help their employees decompress. It may not necessarily need to be a separate room designated for meditation, but any vacant room such as a conference room can be used for this purpose. More importantly, as individuals or businesses, we need to create the time for meditation at work. The entire team can meditate for a few minutes in the morning before starting work, as we are more aware and relaxed in the morning. This helps everyone stay more focused and less stressed throughout the day.
Stop Multitasking: Multitasking has become the norm today. It may seem like a desirable skill to be able to do a dozen tasks at a single time, but how efficient or effective would that really be? Like computers and smartphones that freeze, slow down or heat up when numerous applications are open at once, our minds too are less efficient while multitasking. We think we are more productive doing several things at a time, but in reality, it decreases our productivity by up to 40%. As it turns out, we are not actually able to multitask. Instead, we just switch rapidly from one task to another, causing more stress, while not even making us productive. Working on one thing at a time fully allocating our attention to that particular thing allows us to be more effective and efficient in how we manage our tasks. It brings more clarity and focus to our tasks even in the busiest of days. Also, refraining to check our phones or social media frequently while working helps tremendously in focusing on the present moment, as it often overloads us with information. If we still get distracted, talking to a colleague about important topics to get a clear view on what we need to achieve would help bring back our focus to the current task. Another way to stop multitasking is to create a schedule for ourselves. Scheduling helps us focus on one thing at a time. Once the scheduled time for one task is over, we can move to another task.
Self-Compassion: We need to understand and remember that we are not perfect and that’s okay. It is often easier to show compassion to others than to ourselves. Nevertheless, practicing self-compassion is extremely important in every aspect of life including work. During times of misfortune, failure, or stress, it is important to offer sympathy and kindness towards ourselves. Particularly when we are stressed or overwhelmed, we need to be aware of the negative sensations, acknowledge them, and accept them to calm ourselves down. This is the key to maintaining perseverance and being mentally strong to take on any kind of challenges we face.
In conclusion, practicing mindfulness would not only benefit us as individuals in our workplaces, but if more and more individuals start practicing mindfulness, it would benefit the entire economy of our country and even the world.
 “Unlocking your Emotions to Achieve the SDGs: Mindfulness & Meditation in Government”. Academic Impact, 7 May 2019. Retrieved from- https://academicimpact.un.org/content/unlocking-your-emotions-achieve-sdgs-mindfulness-meditation-government
 “Mindfulness in business”. Training Journal, 10 September 2018. Retrieved from https://www.trainingjournal.com/articles/features/mindfulness-business
 “Why Mindfulness Matters In The Workplace”. Work Design Magazine. Retrieved from- https://www.workdesign.com/2015/04/why-mindfulness-matters-in-the-workplace/
 “How (and Why) to Stop Multitasking”. Harvard Business Review, 20 May 2010. Retrieved from- https://hbr.org/2010/05/how-and-why-to-stop-multitaski
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