In the chaotic world of modern workplaces, stress and deadlines seem to reign supreme. Workers take pleasure in boasting about how busy they are, and how stressed they feel. Hooray. Against this rather disturbing backdrop, the concept of mindfulness in the workplace has emerged as a beacon of hope for those seeking a slice of serenity in the daily grind. This article will take you on an enlightening journey – although true enlightenment need not be reached – through the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace. And there are indeed many. I’ll debunk mysticism. I’ll argue that ordinary people can embrace meditation at work. But they need not don a robe, chant incantations, or talk about “the universe” mysteriously guiding all of their life choices. Indeed, if they do at work, they’d (rightly) go to the back of the queue for a promotion.
The benefits of mindfulness in the workplace are often touted as the elixir for employee wellbeing. Indeed, I’ve argued previously that learning mindfulness is the best way to boost your career. Practicing mindfulness can make you less stressed, calmer, and more focused. Increasing your productivity, while improving your relationships with colleagues. The good news is that mindfulness doesn’t require you and your colleagues to sit for hours in the lotus position. Or to tune into the cosmic energy of the office coffee machine. No, you can still enjoy the benefits without a misguided descent into the New Age world.
You’ll simply need to set aside 10 minutes per day (or 20, ideally) to practice. This could be done before work, in your lunch break, at your desk (as in the image above), or even on the commute. You could mindfully follow your breathing on the train. Or if you drive, you could arrive at work a few minutes early, so you can sit in the car and get your practice done. Anywhere will do really, except for literally in the middle of a meeting. (For those interested, this post outlines how you’d go about meditating.)
Breathe In, Breathe Out, Don’t Talk About Chakras
One of the prime benefits of mindfulness in the workplace is stress reduction. Imagine facing an impossible deadline. Your “awful” boss (your paraphrasing) is breathing down your neck. Your inbox is seemingly filling up faster than you can possibly reply – and you also have a report to finish. Instead of reaching for that third cup of coffee, take a moment. Pause. Breathe. Even a couple of minutes of mindful breathing can transform your desk into a slightly less stressful place. It’ll help your nervous system move away from the ‘fight or flight’ mode (“I’m about to die”) and into the ‘rest and digest’ parasympathetic mode (“Aaaah”). The good news? You can sit at your desk normally while you do this. No lotus position needed. In fact, please, please don’t do this.
Mindfulness In Meetings
Tired of those soul-crushing meetings? Where everyone stares blankly at their phones until the last possible moment when the meeting starts? Just to avoid a second of small talk. Why not use mindfulness to kick off meetings? This need not be woo-woo. Just allow your team a minute to arrive, connecting with how they feel and following their breaths. You can even share how you feel at the start (although I’m sure some CEOs won’t like this idea, at least initially). In this way, the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace can extend beyond personal wellbeing to redefine how to approach collaboration. If you feel calmer before a meeting, perhaps you’ll listen better. And collaborate better too. Just remember to open your eyes when it’s time to vote on the budget.
Multitasking: The Enemy of Mindfulness (And Productivity)
Contrary to popular belief, multitasking isn’t a sign of productivity. When someone boasts about “being a good multitasker”, they’re in effect saying “I do multiple tasks slowly and badly, at the same time, in a stressful way”. Multitasking is merely switching tasks regularly. The mind can only focus on one thing at a time. Switching tasks feels unpleasant, reduces output, and prevents deep work.
However, with the right mindset, you can use mindfulness to help you become more focused on the task at hand. Answering emails, for example, while using the breath to remain fully present. Instead of trying to get the task at hand “out of the way” you fully experience it, and fully focus on it. Before you know it, you may have cleared your inbox. And perhaps, the experience wouldn’t have been quite as painful as if you’d tried to do three other things at the same time. You might then have more time for deep work, where you block out chunks of time to work in an undistracted manner. Without being as beholden to the beeps of your phone or constant email pressures.
Mindfulness Apps Means There’s No Need For Gurus
While some may seek enlightenment through retreats with mystical gurus, like this writer on several occasions, the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace are accessible to all, even those on a budget. Mindfulness apps have become the go-to solution for the everyday seeker of inner peace. No need to invest in a guru with a long white beard when you can have a soothing voice guiding you through a meditation session right from your smartphone. Could this soothing voice be mine? Well, if you like, there’s plenty of my guided meditations available here for you to try, and the word “namaste” isn’t mentioned once.
I learnt to meditate while using a meditation app on the loo in my lunchbreak. Was it glamorous? No. Was I pleased about being close to other co-workers defecating while trying to train my mind? No. But did it help lower stress and improve my output? Emphatically, yes. If I was stressed, ten minutes of mindful breathing always felt like it’d slightly reset my mind, ready to face further (annoying) workplace challenges. (Since then, for the past decade, I’ve meditated on a cushion in my bedroom in the morning, which is a great deal more pleasant.) I would say, however, that nothing beats meditation lessons for those who want to deepen their practice or accelerate their progress, if they’re a beginner.
Mindful Eating: Snacking With Intention
Elevate your snack game with the concept of mindful eating. Instead of absentmindedly eating some average, overpriced sandwich from Pret, while answering emails, take a breath. Use your lunchbreak. You’re allowed one. Even if you just sit in a different room to eat. Take a few minutes to not look at a screen, and try to enjoy the simple pleasure of eating your food. Feel the texture of the food, try to savour each bite. Be aware that you’re actually eating, basically. Mindful eating not only promotes better digestion, but also turns your meal time into a gastronomic meditation session. Who knew that a crap sandwich could be a path to enlightenment?
The Benefits of Mindfulness In The Workplace
I hope I’ve outlined a few small, simple steps, that can help you feel better at work. Slightly less stressed workers will be better workers, more creative workers, and hopefully, happier workers. I’d go as far to say, if you want a promotion, learn to meditate. And the good news is that the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace aren’t reserved for those who can chant “om” or twist themselves into pretzel-like yoga poses. Ordinary people – like you, presumably – can reap the rewards of mindfulness without succumbing to the spiritual. But equally, if you want to one day go down the spiritual route too, that’s also totally fine. Remember that mindfulness in the workplace isn’t about floating away on a cloud of mysticism; it’s about finding your centre while navigating the desk-filled reality of most of our lives.
So, take a deep breath. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Let the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace transform your daily grind into… Well, I want to say “bliss”. But this’d be disingenuous. I don’t want to overpromise. Let’s just say transform your daily grind into slightly less of a daily grind. After all, work is work.
P.s. I’ve taught meditation to financial firms, start-ups, wellbeing firms, and even UK politicians, among others. If you’d like me to help improve your office wellbeing and productivity, check out my Corporate Meditation or One-To-One meditation offerings.