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How mindfulness could improve wellbeing and productivity

If you thought that mindfulness is nothing but some ‘touchy-feely’ stuff that has no value in the working environment, you may be surprised to find that some of the world’s largest employers have looked at its benefits.

Google, Nike and Microsoft are just some of the bigger businesses that have explored mindfulness for their employees to help improve their wellbeing, and help individuals thrive at work1. But part of the appeal of mindfulness is that organisations of any size can easily employ its techniques.

What is mindfulness?

At its simplest, mindfulness is a form of training exercise for the mind, and something that the mental health charity Mind says can help people become more self-aware, feel calmer and less stressed, and cope with difficult or unhelpful thoughts2.

There are several ways of defining mindfulness, but many point to feeling focused on the present, as opposed to being overly concerned with – or even overwhelmed by – other worries or distractions3.

What techniques can be employed to achieve mindfulness?

In both our busy working and home lives, we may find ourselves constantly switching from one task to another. But using a mindfulness technique, where we come back to the present moment over and over again, can help teach the brain to focus4

Meditation is perhaps the most widespread form of mindfulness training. And with as little as five or 10 minutes needed, even the busiest people should be able to fit it into their day5.

Meditation can simply involve the person finding a quiet place to sit for a pre-defined period, and then focusing their attention on their thoughts and body – how their thoughts come and go, how they’re breathing, their heartbeat, and reconnecting with the sights, sounds and smells of the present moment. And when the mind starts to wander, or return to concerns or anxieties, bringing the attention back6.

What benefits can mindfulness offer employees?

Like any other skill, mindfulness can take time and practice, but says the NHS, mindfulness could have a role to play in helping individuals manage their mental health7. Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK suggest that mindfulness can be effective in treating depression8.

But mindfulness in the workplace can also have a number of positive effects, including a reduction in perceived stress, and an increase in concentration levels such as memory tasks9 and decision-making10.

How can employers help their staff with mindfulness?

Crucially, employers need to be wary of treating mindfulness as a quick fix that will instantly solve a productivity problem. It won’t. Mindfulness training needs to be built up over time.

To introduce the idea to employees, you might like to promote meditation or mindfulness apps, or online resources that employees can use in their own time – such as these on Mind’s website – and encourage them to talk to each other about their experiences with the training.

And for that time in the future when we’re all back at work, you could choose to bring in an external speaker or trainer to give a coaching session to employees.

In the meantime, allow your employers to take time away from their work to practise a short session of meditation during the day. Encouraging an atmosphere of listening and focus, rather than a culture of rushing and multitasking, may just improve your business.