What is mindfulness? And why does your office need it?

Practising mindfulness can transport you – even in the office

Use it to replace personal negativity, team in-fighting or the feared office manager approach.

In the modern office environment of instant information, immediate reaction, and 24/7 availability, it can be difficult to achieve any kind of mental balance – to deal with tricky situations or to tune out distractions.

But there is something that could help. Mindfulness is the practice of deliberately focusing on the here and now – placing yourself in the present moment to increase awareness and clarity. In the UK, the NHS and Transport for London are just two organisations that have already introduced mindfulness meditation in the workplace. Here are three ways a focus on mindfulness can impact the corporate environment.

OVERHAUL THE OFFICE ENVIRONMENT

Office politics will always be an issue for most management teams. Rivalry, competitiveness and jealousy can have a major impact.

When executed properly, mindfulness training can increase awareness of your emotions and those of other people. This, in turn, can have a positive effect on behaviour and atmosphere in the workplace – not in a sixth sense way, but simply through the acknowledgement that comes from higher emotional awareness.

This can help people to control their reactions and be more aware when colleagues are trying to provoke them. It also helps employees to consider admitting their mistakes. A reluctance to do so comes from a fear of the consequences, but being aware of emotions and engaged with your fear means you can confront it and deal more effectively with the task at hand.

ENCOURAGING A WORK/LIFE BALANCE

In this “always on” culture, it has become increasingly difficult to switch off. This means that employers are now far more obliged to make sure that their employees’ health and wellbeing is maintained.

With mindfulness meditation in the workplace, employees can enjoy a restful and calming 10 minutes in their otherwise stressful and busy day. It gives them the opportunity to let go of any stress and anxiety that they were experiencing and gain a considered perspective on their own work, before returning to their responsibilities with a more positive and productive outlook.

RECOGNISING COGNITIVE ABILITY

A lot of people claim that they work best under pressure, and managers often feel that they get the best from their team by being aggressively demanding. However, neuroscientific research has now shown this to be far from true. Stress, pressure, aggression – all of these produce a reaction in our brains which is part of the “fight, flight or freeze” response. The part of our brain known as the sympathetic nervous system shoots off a signal and, depending on the intensity of the reaction, individuals will display shades of anxiety or aggression.

Far from operating better under pressure, the heightened emotional arousal means that many won’t actually be thinking particularly straight. Mindfulness meditation can help counter this. Practice can improve general calmness, and reduce the activity of the “flight, fright or freeze” part of the brain – it means we can think more clearly.

MRI scans show that regular practice leaves the meditator able to modify their behaviour. This can be deeply empowering: it means people can be less fearful and more willing to approach a problem than previously. And in the workplace, this means fewer problems and more solutions – and a much calmer, more focused workforce.

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