Mindfulness is one of the hottest trends in corporate wellness, and for good reason: it has been shown to have a positive impact on employee health and well-being. It can help employees decrease stress, improve concentration, increase job satisfaction, and enhance relationships at work. However, many people don’t find mindfulness to be effective, often because of misinformation or misunderstandings about what mindfulness is and how it works. The truth is, mindfulness does work, but there are a few key things to keep in mind to ensure it’s effective for your organization.
The first is that mindfulness doesn’t mean ignoring difficult experiences. Instead, it is a way of paying close attention, nonjudgmentally, to whatever is happening in the moment. This can mean listening closely to a presentation at work, or it could mean being patient when an employee receives negative feedback and considering alternative viewpoints.
It also means noticing when you are acting out of stress, and then making an active choice to change the way you respond to it. For example, it is important not to act out of anger or resentment when receiving criticism from a supervisor; rather, you should focus on breathing deeply and reminding yourself that the criticism doesn’t necessarily reflect your whole self. In fact, it can even be helpful to think of it as an opportunity for growth and personal development (Quast, 2018).
The second is that mindfulness doesn’t just reduce physical stress; it can actually help people change how they see their problems, which can lead to different, more constructive behaviors. For instance, some studies show that when a person practices mindfulness, they are more likely to recognize the root cause of a problem and therefore better equipped to solve it. This can lead to an improved outlook on life and a greater ability to see the “big picture,” which can result in more productive and positive behavior at work (Hunter, McCormick, and Goldman, 2014).
In addition to social bias, mindfulness appears to reduce some types of mental biases as well. For example, it may decrease sunk-cost bias, which is our tendency to stay invested in something even when we know it’s not working out (Haley, 2018).
So does mindfulness work? The answer is yes, but it is important to keep in mind that introducing mindfulness at work requires an investment of time and resources. As such, it’s best to have a clear idea of what you want your workplace to gain from the program, and to develop goals that are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound (Mudd, 2017). Also, when implementing mindfulness programs, it’s important to offer a variety of ways for employees to engage in mindful activities, because not everyone learns or practices meditation in the same way. For this reason, it’s also helpful to have mindfulness experts on hand who can provide guidance and answer any questions.