7th October 2017
Mindfulness is a popular buzzword within business these days, but it is one that has been around for thousands of years. Not so long ago, mindfulness was widely regarded as the preserve of Buddhist monks, rather than a concept that has a practical part to play within the world of business.
Interest in mindfulness at work is rapidly increasing however, with businesses such as Google, GlaxoSmithKline, KPMG, and PWC recognising its importance for staff. Its surge in popularity accompanies rising employee stress levels resulting from increasing demands of the modern workplace. People are seeking to find ways to deal with the challenges, complexities and increasing pressures of our times, and are turning to mindfulness by way of solution. You simply have to look at that creation of the modern world of business, LinkedIn, to see its popularity. The ‘Mindfulness’ LinkedIn group has membership of over 25,000, while the ‘Mindfulness in the Workplace and Mindful Leadership’ group has in excess of 12,000 members.
A survey published last year by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development found that stress and mental ill-health were amongst the most common causes of long-term absence from work. The report noted that the most common cause of stress was employee workload, followed by personal relationships, management style and relationships at work. Perhaps the survey’s most worrying finding though, was that nearly half of the private sector organisations that ranked stress among their top five causes of absence from work were not taking any steps to proactively address it.
Mindfulness has long been found to improve both physical and mental health and to reduce stress levels. Other benefits of it are said to include increased resilience, faster and more rational decision making, and higher levels of engagement. For employers this means reduced levels of sickness absence, increased efficiency and higher productivity amongst staff.
So what exactly is mindfulness and what steps can be taken by employers to implement it in the workplace?
Professor Mark Williams, former director of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, says that mindfulness means knowing directly what is going on inside and outside ourselves, moment by moment. It is the process of paying attention to the present moment, rather than dwelling on the past or fretting about the future.
Mindfulness can be effectively introduced into the workplace in a number of different ways, including incorporating it into stress-management programmes, corporate social responsibility initiatives and learning and development programmes.
Although the origins of mindfulness are in the Buddhist faith, it is important not to restrict its application within the workplace to those of particular religions or beliefs. In order to avoid any accusation of discrimination, any programme or policy incorporating mindfulness ought to be inclusive and open to all.
Mindfulness does not necessary need to be referred to as such, for there will inevitably be those who are sceptical about its benefits or regard mindfulness as simply a fad. Instead, employers might find it more productive to refer to it as stress management, awareness or emotional intelligence. Whatever its label, the concept of mindfulness is proven to have a positive impact upon staff health and wellbeing and employers ought to seriously consider incorporating it into their workplace.
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