Mindfulness in the Workplace

Mindfulness in the workplace seems like a basic concept but is often lacking. Employees are expected to switch rapidly between tasks throughout the day, from navigating meetings and emails to juggling multiple projects.

It becomes even more difficult to be mindful during particularly busy periods, such as the end of a quarter or when a deadline is approaching. All of this can easily cultivate feelings of stress and agitation around the office.

Moving into 2019, more workplaces are putting a greater emphasis on employee mindfulness. There are several major benefits to being mindful in the workplace. Most importantly, studies show that a mindful work environment decreases stress and improves overall efficiency. However, promoting a mindful workplace only works if all the employees agree to put in the effort. Otherwise, it quickly falls apart. Fortunately, there are many ways you can promote mindfulness in your workplace.

Leading by Example

While everyone needs to be mindful in the workplace to produce the most benefits, being mindful often starts with a handful of employees. Ideally, your management team will practice mindfulness in order to set an example for the rest of the office.

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Even if your manager does not interact with your coworkers enough to encourage mindful behavior, do not be afraid to demonstrate it yourself. In most workplaces, mindfulness is infectious. Even gruffer employees tend to become more mindful if everyone else around them is promoting a thoughtful and polite work environment.

Consider the Other Perspective

In the workplace, you typically have some time to schedule your calls, emails and meetings, so this is a great time to practice mindfulness and workplace etiquette. Whenever you are preparing a speech or a written message, take the time to go over what you wrote and imagine how it sounds from the receiving end. Even if it was not intentional, you may have inadvertently worded a message in a way that comes off as dismissive or offensive. In your rush to send off an email, you may forget to include a formal introduction, or use the wrong title for whoever you were addressing. While these are minor slights, they can quickly contribute to an irritable or tense work environment.

Be Consciously Present at Work

When you are at work, especially in a busy job, it is easy to fall into default behaviors. Unfortunately, it is much harder to be mindful when you do this, because you become less aware of anything else happening in the office. It may seem like it hurts productivity, but do not be afraid to take small breaks as needed to realign your thoughts or address any other employees. If someone needs a few minutes to get advice or hear your opinion, it is important to grant it to them to support a collaborative and open workplace. It may seem like a simple concept, but it is easy to get lost in your work or be too focused on an upcoming deadline to remain courteous or even acknowledge your coworkers.

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In addition to politely responding to coworkers, being consciously present also means remembering you are in a professional environment. If you are working on a stressful project and become agitated, remember you are around your coworkers. Even if you are quietly fuming in your cubicle, other employees may be uncomfortable by your obvious anger. If you get upset at the workplace, consider stepping out for a few minutes or taking an early lunch so you can cool off. If possible, switch gears and focus on another task.

Discourage Multitasking and Micromanaging

In general, multitasking in the workplace often does more harm than good. Many employees try to convince themselves that multitasking increases efficiency, but this is not always the case. Those who claim to be good at multitasking often end up distracted while trying to juggle multiple assignments. As a result, these employees become naturally less productive.

Multi-taskers may also give a negative impression in the workplace, as other employees can feel like they are not doing enough in comparison and also try to multitask. Instead, choose to be mindful and focus on one task at a time. Encourage your coworkers to do the same, so all of you can reap the benefits of your thorough and mindful work.

Micromanaging is a similar problem which is somewhat related to multitasking. If a coworker or manager is spending too much time focusing on your job, encourage them to focus on his or her work instead. If it is a manager specifically, remember to be tactful when approaching him or her. Be respectful and acknowledge that you appreciate what he or she is trying to do, but make it clear that this behavior is hurting your productivity overall.

You Cannot Control Everything

A common source of workplace stress is attempting to deal with issues you have no influence over. When you are stressed, it is harder to promote a mindful environment. Unfortunately, many jobs have stressful components you cannot change. Some potential stressful sources you cannot control include:

  • The resources available at work.
  • Deadlines.
  • The hours you must work.
  • Waiting for another project to finish.
  • When big meetings occur, such as performance reviews.
  • The mistakes of other employees.

If you focus too much attention on these elements that you cannot change, you start to accentuate the negative. Other employees are likely to notice this behavior around the office and become less mindful as a result. In the case of a coworker making a mistake, you have two options. The first is to help resolve the mistake, without making him or her feel judged.

If it is too late to repair the mistake, your only option is to move on and not linger on the failure. Remember, everyone makes mistakes, and the responsible party often feels the worst about it afterwards. Be mindful of their feelings and treat him or her like you would want to be treated after making a mistake. More importantly, practicing mindfulness will help you to focus on the elements you have control over, allowing you to remain focused and productive.

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