Mindfulness at Work
You’re sure to have heard of it, but chances are you don’t have the faintest idea what it entails. Mindfulness is the new craze being championed by employers from Apple and Google to Transport for London and even the NHS! After being initially developed by health and psychology professionals and eventually popularised by online influencers, the ‘mindfulness movement’ has now spread to the business world and is being used across a wide array of professions; from healthcare professionals, finance and tech companies and even by those in criminal justice jobs. So, “What is mindfulness?”, I hear you ask, and “why is it taking the business world by storm?”.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness draws heavily on Buddhist teachings of using meditation to develop self-knowledge and wisdom that eventually leads to ‘enlightenment’. The actual psychological process of mindfulness involves bringing your attention to the experiences occurring in the present moment through practices such as meditation or other training. Whilst the ‘mindfulness movement’ is undoubtedly heavily influenced by Buddhist teachings, the recent popular manifestation of mindfulness is of a secular nature and has been influenced more significantly by the work of clinical psychologists in the 1970s. These psychologists developed a number of therapeutic applications based on mindfulness techniques for people struggling with a variety of psychological conditions, such as stress, anxiety, depression and even drug addiction. It is these psychological benefits that appear to have driven the recent popularisation of mindfulness within the workplace.
Why Mindfulness has been Popularised
Sick days taken for stress-related-illnesses have risen dramatically in recent years, leading to concerns about employee wellbeing and potential burnout. Couple this with a desire on the part of businesses to act more ethically due to consumer pressure and poor productivity rates, and you have the perfect environment for a ‘mindfulness movement’ to thrive. Several companies have now attempted to integrate mindfulness coaching, meditation breaks and other resources in an attempt to improve workplace functioning and the results have been surprisingly positive. Mindfulness programmes in the workplace have been found to result in better employee well-being, lower levels of frustration, lower absenteeism and burnout as well as an improved overall work environment. With the emergence of evidence that mindfulness also correlates with ethical decision-making, it has also been suggested that mindfulness training could be used to promote ethical intentions and behaviour amongst business students and employees. Given these findings it is not surprising that more and more companies and institutions are looking to take advantage of the potential benefits mindfulness could bring to their employees.