Does mindfulness really work, and can it be applied to the workplace?

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Have a guess what the following world renowned companies have in common? Google, Sony, General Electric, IBM, Goldman Sachs, L’Oreal, Telstra and SBS.

Well, they have all introduced mindfulness training programs into their workplaces, and as a result they have all gained outstanding productivity increases of 20-35% overall, which is the equivalent to having an extra 2.5 days per month!

Hopefully that got your attention! Now you are probably wondering what exactly is mindfulness?

mindfulness

/ˈmʌɪn(d)f(ʊ)lnəs/

noun
1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.

2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

Derived from the Buddhist discipline, Mindfulness is the art of focusing on the moment, rather than being consumed by pains of the past, or worries of the future. Mind Full or Mindful?

It is about accepting and focusing on emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment in order to promote well being. Mindfulness is a mental state, achieved from regular meditation. Your body is present, is your mind?

Mindfulness has become a popular notion in Western culture, since being introduced by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the form of a stress reduction program and has gained huge popularity as an effective method to handle emotions. Even as early as the 1970’s psychologists and psychiatrists have introduced therapeutic remedies based on mindfulness to alleviate a number of mental health issues like depression and anxiety, reducing stress, as well as the effective treatment of drug addiction.

Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) programs are now widely used in schools, prisons and hospitals, even the Dalai Lama spoke about it in his recent Australian conference on ‘happiness and its causes’. But how about the workplace, could Mindfulness be an effective tool for your company?

Mindfulness training programs teach the techniques required  to switch off our sympathetic nervous systems, and switch on our parasympathetic systems, which keeps us sharp, focused, energetic and happy. It’s about not running on adrenaline constantly and allowing ourselves to become over stimulated by our day-to-day lives. According to Harvard researcher Matt Killingsworth, the average mind wanders 46.9% of the time; its no wonder we find it so hard to focus, especially when we have on average 60-80,000 thoughts per day.

Applied within an office environment, mindfulness training is proven to assist with:

Attention and focus:

According to a number of different studies, focus will improve by up to 45%. Employees will learn techniques to focus, and block distractions from multi-tasking, emails or mindless thoughts, allowing them to not be bogged down in yesterday and tomorrow and instead focusing only on success.

Self awareness and the awareness of others:

This will allow for better communication as employees will develop a heightened sense of awareness, allowing them to see others points of view more clearly.

Improved self resilience and emotional intelligence: 

Direct thoughts more appropriately and show empathy more willingly. React more appropriately to stressful situations.

Stronger cognitive effectiveness:

Move away from working on ‘auto-pilot’, understand reactions and triggers and make better decisions. Learn the tools to ‘switch’ and enter a  mindful state which activates anti-stress enzymes and hormones. Develop the ability to ‘think out of the box’ and enhance creativity.

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” ~ Buddha

Learning and developing these skills will no doubt improve business effectiveness; not only will your employees perform better but these improvements will flow throughout your business to benefit:

Leadership: Mindfulness training will allow managers and leaders to become more adaptable and flexible and open themselves up to new ways of listening, leading, responding, and innovating.

Employee relations: Mindfulness can help employees respond more appropriately to managers and other co workers that they have previously found difficult to work with. Teams who practice mindfulness report better team cohesion and team relationships as a result.

Customer service: Mindfulness can help businesses provide a higher standard of service by equipping their employees with the skills to respond more appropriately to their daily challenges.

Cost Reductions: decreased levels of absenteeism, staff turnover and reduced costs associated with sickness.

There are a range of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Programs on offer today for Australian businesses from ongoing courses to workshops and individual coaching, all of which can be tailored to meet the needs of your organisation and to give your office the tools to better cope with the inevitable challenges of today’s hectic working environment.

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