Reading the title of this article, some may think that it is a big contradiction in terms. Mindfulness, generally associated with meditation is widely regarded as time consuming. It is something one would do on a quiet Sunday afternoon in the patio, not at the office with a million things to do at the same time.
If anything, employees should develop the capacity to work faster and on several projects while having a healthy breakfast at the desk. While this juggling ability has definitely become a requirement on any job application (it is just masked under “multitasking skills”, “flexibility” and “resistance to stress”), it has not really made people work better. Doing one thing while thinking about another, checking the electronic inbox every couple of minutes and answering the phone while calculating something lead to poor results.
Ironically, making the effort to put everything aside and actually focus in the moment for as little as ten minutes a day can have a significant positive impact on productivity.
Mindfulness helps with focus
The brain never stops. Even as we sleep its processes are still active and sometimes our best ideas come that way. Being mindful simply means moving away from being caught up in our thinking and towards becoming aware of our thinking.
While there is great value to taking a few moments to do this daily, people can make the shift to mindfulness during any moment of the day, including at work. The foundation of mindfulness training is actually attention training.
People have to make the repeated effort of ceasing all thinking and focusing only on what is happening in the moment. Once the brain acquires this skill it can easily be employed whenever there is need for undivided attention to a certain task.
There was actually one study conducted that showed that as little as five days of mindfulness training can bring better, measurable improvements in attention control. The capacity to genuinely direct all attention and avoid being distracted allows people to complete tasks faster and with greater accuracy.
Ten minutes a day keep the doctor away
Today’s workplace is so dynamic and stressful that burn out has become a real issue. People get tired and as a result their immune system fails and they get sick. This of course means that workers eventually get demotivated and employers lose a lot of money due to sick leaves.
The connection between distress of the mind and ailments of the body has been documented for quite some time and the recipes for optimal balance are many – the most popular involve yoga practices and kittens.
Where mindfulness is concerned, studies have been carried out, one in particular looking at the biological processes that are associated with reported changes in mental and physical health in response to meditation have not been systematically explored.
It found that even “a short program in mindfulness meditation produces demonstrable effects on brain and immune function. These findings suggest that meditation may change brain and immune function in positive ways and underscore the need for additional research.”
Getting what really matters done
Today’s workplace is a really busy scene. Employees need to get a lot done during the work day and often times they finish tasks after office hours. Even with time and project management skills it is hard to fit everything in. New requests come up constantly and unfortunately a lot of times there are enormous efforts put towards something that in the end is no longer necessary.
There are many people who get a lot of things done each day – they are constantly busy and are regarded as very productive. Yet if the things they accomplish don’t really matter it’s not only pointless but it is also a waste of resources.
Mindfulness training helps people gain clarity on what is really important. It is a lot more effective than making charts and placing tasks according to apparent urgency. The ability to genuinely stop thinking in order to take in the immediate reality helps avoid the temptation to jump into tasks that are seemingly important but really aren’t and also provides a good shield from distractions.
Spending but a couple of hours each day working on essential projects comes with far greater productivity than simply reacting to everything and anything the entire work day.
All in all
Companies all around the world have already started to invest big in well-being programs for their employees. These have proved to be a successful incentive with a powerful impact on engagement. Including mindfulness training in these programs is easy and has the documented capability to lead to increased productivity and better results.
Raluca Cristescu is a Faculty of Letters graduate with over ten years of experience in corporate training, focused mainly on soft skills for customer service and direct sales.