Mindfulness Matters in the Workplace


The mind is a powerful asset, and like any other organ it needs equal rest and stimulation. It's become obvious that our workplaces are increasingly stressful with longer work hours, high pressure deadlines and increased workloads. It begs the question, how do we give our brain a rest while at work?

Mindfulness is an antidote and is slowly becoming more mainstream in the workplace.

So what exactly is mindfulness? In my research, mindfulness is basically a form of mediation and acceptance. It's the practice of being in the present moment and deliberately paying attention to your thoughts, feelings and sensations without judgement. I personally found the challenging part is letting go of the thoughts, the non-judgement and staying with it despite my discomfort. The benefit outweighs the discomfort because I am more calm, clear and able to handle what's in front of me.

In fact, last year Harvard Business Review revealed that people who meditate show more activity in their anterior cingulate cortex which regulates impulsive behavior and distraction.

In my observation, most of us have an overactive, distracted mind, to the point where it's impacting how well we relate to others and how we get our work done. This clearly impacts our well-being and that of the organization. If most of us are stressed-out, exhausted and have a mental running to-do list, it's impossible to be highly engaged, focused and productive.

We've become "masters of multi-tasking" and yet research shows multi-tasking is not all that it's cracked up to be and has very negative consequences.

Professor emeritus Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder and former director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center is the pioneer of mindfulness with his book Wherever You Go, There You Are, published back in 1994. After all of these years, it's finally made it into the fabric of our business life. Mindfulness is now being examined scientifically and has been found to be a key element in happiness as well.

Calming the Mind

How often do you find yourself, exhausted or occupied by a running "to-do list," recognize this as a sign to still the mind. When do we pause long enough to breathe, to reflect, and to rest our mind from all the chatter inside our head.

Practicing mindfulness calms the mind and has a lot of health benefits too.

There are multiple ways to practice mindfulness, however, the general purpose is to achieve a state of being fully present. By doing this on a regular basis, it allows the mind to be still long enough to gain more clarity, receive a solution or brilliant idea. The good news is, this can happen with just a few minutes of practice every day.

In the busyness of your day if you find yourself overwhelmed, in a rush to accomplish your tasks, or losing your connection with the present moment--pause and take a moment to practice mindfulness and experience the benefits.

Basic Mindfulness Meditation Practice Steps:

  1. Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or on a word or mantra that you repeat silently.
  2. Allow the thoughts, feelings and sensations to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on your breath. Some people repeat the word "Om" or a phrase like, "Every day in every way, I'm getting better and better."
  3. Do this a few minutes every day and increase your time as it becomes more comfortable

Benefits of Mindfulness

  • Improves both mental and physical health
  • Increases your ability to be fully engaged in activities
  • Helps build a greater capacity to deal with complex or adverse situations
  • Reduces anxiety, less likely to get caught up in worrying about the future
  • Increases ability to be compassionate with self and others
  • Better able to improve your performance at work

Because of the growing benefits, more companies are embracing Mindfulness in the workplace to name a few: General Mills, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Google, Forbes and Aetna Insurance. The general consensus of bringing mindfulness in the workplace is showing quantifiable results including increased productivity, performance, and better decision making. Imagine what it would be like if all companies implemented a daily practice of mindfulness as part of their culture, how would that impact overall productivity, engagement and results?

I'm an advocate for helping employees and organizations cultivate positive, engaged and energized workplaces.

Michelle Burke is a Communication and Workplace Strategist, published Author, Consultant, and Speaker. She is Co-founder and President of The Energy Catalyst Group dedicated to creating more positive and engaged workplaces. Her years' experience working with Fortune 100, 500 companies, established her as a leading expert in bridging communication, gender and cultural gaps. Michelle consults with HR and leadership to focus on increasing individual, team and organizational energy. She collaborates with clients using her 3-A Model: Awareness, Accountability and (purposeful) Action. Clients include Stanford University, Visa, Sony, Disney, Receptos and Genentech. She authored, The Valuable Office Professional, and was featured in Business Week's Frontier Magazine, the LA Times, SF Chronicle, and Wall Street Journal. Her articles have been in Training, HR, and Chief Learning Officer Magazines. Please connect with her Michelle@energycatalystgroup.com