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Tips and Strategies to Increase Employee Mindfulness at Work - HRDQ

Tips and Strategies to Increase Employee Mindfulness at Work

Today's workforce is more stressed out than ever, with almost half of employees reporting feeling stressed in their jobs. On top of that, a report from Gallup claims that nearly one-quarter of employees feel burnout at the office "very often or always."

There are many ways that increasing employee mindfulness can benefit any organization, one of which is helping to improve employee well-being and reduce work-related stress.

How can you transform your workplace by encouraging mindfulness? Let's look at some essential tips and strategies.

What Is Employee Mindfulness?

Mindfulness isn't the easiest word to define, but many definitions share the same essential elements. In various articles and studies, you can find mindfulness explained using the following phrases:

  • Present-focused consciousness
  • Paying close attention to stimuli, both external and internal
  • Being receptive, attentive, and aware of the events and experiences of the present moment

It might be easy to stay mindful when you're at a week-long retreat in Sedona, but it's another thing entirely when you're knee-deep in a busy workday. Mindfulness at work is possible, but it does take reminders, extra effort, and the willingness to build new habits.

A Mindful Employee

Above all, mindfulness means being awake and aware of the present moment. Rather than going into autopilot (which we spend ten years of our lives doing, according to a new study,) mindful employees give each task their full attention and are conscious of all of their activities as they go through the day.

When employees are mindful, it means they are taking in what is occurring in a non-judgmental way. A growing number of researchers see mindfulness as a psychological state rather than a trait, meaning that any individual can be more or less mindful from moment to moment.

Why Is Mindfulness Important in the Workplace?

There are countless benefits to encouraging mindfulness in the workplace. Some of these include:

  • Increased empathy
  • Boosted enjoyment at work
  • Improved workplace relationships
  • Decreased rumination
  • Improved self-determination and persistence
  • Improved task commitment
  • Improved working memory
  • Increased resilience
  • Improved intuition and decision-making skills

As you might imagine, these benefits can significantly impact your organization. When employees are more mindful, it can reduce their work stress, increase their job satisfaction and motivation, enhance employee engagement, and lead to a more flexible and adaptable workforce.

Mindfulness in the Workplace

Several major corporations have teamed up to help increase the presence of mindful workplace cultures through the Mindful Workplace Alliance (MWA), including Google, Verizon Media, Intel, and LinkedIn.

As they've rolled out mindfulness programs in their respective companies, the success of the programs has been tracked in various ways.

For example, Intel found that their employee well-being increased after a ten-week mindfulness program. Verizon found that incorporating their culture of mindfulness into their communications with external clients had a profoundly positive impact, while LinkedIn saw an increase in skilled applicants after unveiling their mindfulness program.

Tips and Strategies to Increase Employee Mindfulness at Work

Considering the many benefits of mindfulness in the workplace, it's no surprise that massive corporations are working to increase presence and focus among their workers.

Mindful Employees

Here are some accessible ways to boost mindfulness in your workplace, whether your team is in-office or remote.

1. Lead By Example

When you want to encourage mindfulness in your workplace, one of the most important things you can do is lead by example.

Leading by Example

Operating using a "do as I say, not as I do" strategy won't get you very far. You'll likely find that your employees are reluctant to implement habits and behaviors you aren't willing to practice.

2. Encourage Breaks

When people are overworked, it's challenging to stay mindful. When you're running up against a deadline or work in a high-paced environment, taking too many breaks can seem like a luxury you can't afford.

Employees Taking a Break

The reality is that taking physical breaks where employees walk around and spend a few minutes away from their computers can help them refresh their minds and body so they can pick up their work with more energy and dedication.

3. De-Stress the Work Environment

If you work in a physical office, there may be changes you can make to the environment that promotes mindfulness and reduces stress. You can build spaces for employees to take a private moment to regroup, revamp your lighting, or incorporate calming colors. Adding plants is also a great way to create a more welcoming space that helps keep stress levels low.

A Comfortable Work Environment

Another thing to be considerate of is the noise level in your office. Perhaps people with years of mindfulness training under their belt can ignore the loud conversation occurring in the next cubicle, but most people would be distracted by this. Creating solutions for employees needing a private place to focus can make a big difference in mindfulness.

If you don't have a physical office, that doesn't mean you can't help your workers create spaces that promote mindfulness. For example, you might consider offering a stipend for people to spruce up their workspaces to encourage mindful work, or you can offer tips and tricks in weekly mindfulness emails.

4. Set Boundaries Around Time Outside of Work

The importance of mindfulness doesn't stop when the clock strikes 5, and you can help boost your employees' well-being by reducing the time they are expected to work outside of their traditional hours.

Employee Checking the Time

We all know the feeling of receiving a work-related email after hours and the anxiety that can accompany it. Rather than having blurred lines regarding what is expected of your employees when they're clocked out, create clear guidelines and always follow them. For example, you might make a rule that emails and calls after normal business hours are only allowed in legitimately urgent situations.

When employees have adequate time outside of work to focus on things other than their careers and the organization, they are much more likely to be engaged and mindful at work. When there is too much crossover between work and home life, you'll likely notice that your workers are frazzled, distracted, and unable to perform their best.

5. Teach Your Employees to Focus on One Task at a Time

When we have a lot to do in a little time, a lot of us will instinctually multitask. On top of that, we're constantly pulled away from what we're working on by distractions, whether it's an email, a text, a barking dog outside, or a chatty co-worker.

The truth is that multitasking doesn't save us time and instead makes us less efficient. On top of that, it makes us much more likely to make errors.

Employees With Multiple Tasks

One of the ways you can promote employee mindfulness in your workplace is to help your workers focus on one task at a time rather than trying to do everything all at once.

You can use several different methods for this, whether you encourage employees to use the Pomodoro Technique or help them set up to-do lists that they check off one thing at a time.

Teaching your employees to take a moment when transitioning between activities is also a good idea. Whether it means taking a few minutes to do a breathing exercise or walking around the office, giving yourself a little space between activities can help ensure that you can stay mindful throughout the entire workday.

6. Give Mindfulness Lessons

You might choose to simply tell your employees they should be more mindful, but you might find that this doesn't give you the results you're looking for. Mindfulness is a slippery concept that isn't routine for most of us. Taking the time to teach people how to practice mindfulness might be a much more helpful way of encouraging this attitude and mindset in your office.

Giving Mindfulness Lessons

There are many simple mindfulness tools out there you can teach your employees. You might consider sending out a mindfulness email once a week to give out tips and tricks, or you could incorporate a brief five-minute mindfulness lesson at the beginning of your weekly meetings.

7. Start a Dialogue About Mindfulness

If you've been meditating for decades, it can be difficult to realize that not everyone is familiar with the concept of mindfulness and its benefits. As the public conversation around mindfulness has increased in recent years, some people might have misconceptions about what it means to be mindful or aversions to the idea that are based on unfounded concepts. People tend to be wary of things they don't understand, and mindfulness is no exception.

Team Meeting About Mindfulness

One of the best ways to combat this is to get a dialogue going in your office about mindfulness. You might find that your employees aren't aware of how many different approaches one can take to reach a state of mindfulness or that others are confused about what it means to be mindful.

8. Avoid the Urge to Micromanage

One of the things that can take people out of a mindful headspace is the feeling of being micromanaged. 

A Leader Micromanaging

Rather than standing behind your workers every step of the way, give them a little space and time. It's hard to feel mindful when you feel stressed, and it's easy to feel stressed when your boss is breathing down your neck.

9. Hold Mindful Meetings

One strategy for increasing employee mindfulness is making your meetings themselves more mindful. When you first begin your meeting, whether in-person or remote, consider taking a few minutes to take a few breaths, set intentions, or even meditate.

A Mindfulness Meeting

Doing so is a great way to show your employees that you're serious about incorporating mindfulness into your workplace. At the same time, it can set the tone for your meeting, no matter how contentious or urgent the topic at hand is. 

10. Incorporate Extra Time Between Meetings

It's common for organizations to have back-to-back meetings all day long. While this might be the most time-efficient way of scheduling, it can mean that employees struggle to be present as the day goes on. After all, when you're sprinting (literally or metaphorically) to your next meeting, you aren't left with even a second to think, breathe, reflect, or prepare.

A Break Between Meetings

You can increase productivity, focus, and well-being by building in mini-breaks between meetings. Instead of scheduling meetings so that the next one starts the second the last one ends, build in a five or ten-minute buffer. Even though remote workers don't have to physically change conference rooms, it's equally essential for them to have a little space between video conference calls.

11. Be Emotionally Present as a Leader

When you're leading a team, your energy level and psychological state will significantly impact your team.

Emotionally Present Team Leader

If you can demonstrate that you're keeping your cool and staying present, your team will have much more space to remain mindful themselves. If you're stressed out to the max, there's a good chance your team will feel the heat too.

12. Cultivate Humility

The workplace is (ideally) an organized and professional environment, but that doesn't mean your employees should be reluctant to admit when they are wrong or don't know the answer to a question.

Leader Encouraging Employees

Rather than promoting a highly competitive and cut-throat environment, encourage your employees to be honest, admit their mistakes, and be open to new ideas.

13. Promote a Growth Mindset

An essential aspect of mindfulness is adopting a growth mindset. According to a team of researchers at Stanford University led by Carol Dwek, people typically hold one of two mindsets: a fixed or a growth mindset.

When people have a fixed mindset, it means that they believe that all of their basic qualities are fixed. Attached to a fixed mindset is the idea that the talents you're born with (or lack thereof) determine your success. In this worldview, you can't develop yourself beyond the talents and traits you already have; ultimately, you can't change who you are.

On the other hand, people with a growth mindset believe they can improve themselves by exerting focused efforts. They can get better at things by applying themselves, and if they have a weakness, they can strengthen it through determination and hard work.

Promoting a Growth Mindset

People that have a growth mindset tend to demonstrate greater resilience and love to learn.

Having a growth mindset is inherently connected with being mindful. When you're mindful, you're open to new possibilities and pay attention to the present. Mindful employees with a growth mindset are curious to take on new responsibilities and eager to learn new skills.

If you want to improve performance and minimize distractions in your workplace, check out our Mindfulness in the Workplace Customizable Course.

Mindfulness in the Workplace

Do you have any questions about mindfulness or how to promote it in your workplace? If so, be sure to drop a comment down below, and we'll get back to you within a day or two! We always make it a point to reply to every comment and question we receive, and we'll gladly assist you however we can.

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About our author

Bradford R. Glaser

Brad is President and CEO of HRDQ, a publisher of soft-skills learning solutions, and HRDQ-U, an online community for learning professionals hosting webinars, workshops, and podcasts. His 35+ years of experience in adult learning and development have fostered his passion for improving the performance of organizations, teams, and individuals.