Mindfulness is the ability to be present without letting our surroundings affect us. According to Mindful, “The goal of mindfulness is to wake up to the inner workings of our mental, emotional and physical processes.” This week, Roundtable Learning is diving into how mindfulness training can influence job performance and satisfaction.
Mindfulness is traditionally credited to Jon Kabat-Zinn, who, in 1979, created an eight-week stress-reduction program that we now call Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction. According to Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”
Kabat-Zinn believes that so much of our lives is focused on the “I, me, my.” We’ve become so accustomed to living a self-centric life that certain parts of our brains use that as the default setting.
“We become the star of our own movie. The story of ‘me’, starring, of course, me!” Kabat-Zinn says. “And everyone else becomes a bit player in our movie. And then we forget that it’s a fabrication. It’s a construction. And that it’s not a movie and that there’s no “you” that you can actually find if you were to peel back.”
Mindfulness strips this away. According to Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness lights up areas of the brain where “me” doesn’t exist, and it causes us to look at situations and consider other people differently.
By incorporating short pauses to focus on breathing and being in the moment into our everyday life, we can improve our mindfulness. Mindful also recommends meditation, both sitting and walking, and active listening exercises.
How mindfulness affects business
At work, we can feel pressure to produce quality work quickly while also attempting to be more creative and innovative in our ideas and approaches to our jobs. Ellen Keithline Byrne, a leadership consultant, and Tojo Thatchenkery, Director of the Organization Development and Knowledge Management program at George Mason University, believe this is a major contradiction.
“What often happens in hectic workplaces is that employees resort to autopilot or habitual ways of working,” Byrne and Thatchenkery write in their HBR article. “When they don’t have the time or space to incubate novel and clever ideas, they may miss out on opportunities to reframe a problem and see new possibilities for potential solutions.”
Byrne conducted a 15-week study with a midsize U.S. real estate firm to determine if mindfulness training could affect creativity. A team of 10 people were split into two groups — the treatment group and the comparison group.
Both groups were given a pre-assessment at the beginning of the 15-week study. Following, the treatment group received mindfulness training for five weeks, and at the end, both groups received another test in which they were asked to come up with a list of “unusual uses for a brick.”
When they were finished, both groups received a 10-minute mindfulness exercise and were then asked to think of more uses for a brick. Byrne found that seven of the 10 participants increased the number of creative ideas they had after the 10-minute mindfulness exercise.
Before the mindfulness exercise, the first group, which was comprised of six people, came up with one unusual answer, while the other group had none.
Post 10-minute exercise, the first group had four unusual uses for a brick, while the second group had five unusual answers.
Byrne found that both groups had increased their average creativity and flexibility, while also having a stronger sense of belonging and morale.
While a direct influence on business results can be difficult to attain, it’s clear that mindfulness does improve employee focus and job performance. It also creates a more positive work environment — if your employees’ performance goes up, and they feel good while at work, your organization will reap the benefits from their increased creativity and efficiency.
Remember: Your employees cultivate positive experiences with clients, customers and partners, who, in turn, support your business. Make sure your business completes the cycle by taking care of its employees.
Implementing mindfulness training
We know mindfulness training can be used to reduce stress, improve memory and focus and support overall wellness, all of which support a happier and more efficient employee. But how do we implement this training in a meaningful way?
Research finds that people tend to feel tired around mid-day. Desk workers have been sitting for a while, their body temperatures drop, and they have full bellies from their quick afternoon lunches. All of these, particularly the temperature drop, signal our brains that it’s time to rest.
Encourage an after-lunch microlearning session to refocus employees. A short guided meditation or breathing exercise can center the brain on the here-and-now. You could even begin meetings with a 5-minute mindfulness team exercise to ensure everyone in the room is present and attentive.
If you’re looking for something more in-depth, you can combine eLearning with ILT to create a mindfulness program that challenges employees to evaluate their mindfulness at work.
Begin with a pre-assessment that challenges their creativity and their listening skills to determine their attention and focus. You can then use that information to encourage your team to build healthy mindfulness habits while using eLearning to support those habits and get employees’ acquainted with breathing exercises, listening exercises and meditation.
You can also utilize virtual reality to immerse your employees in a calming atmosphere. Transport learners to a beach, where they can time their breathing to the sound of waves crashing onto shore. Or perhaps they could experience a guided meditation in a virtual meditation room. The ability to see their instructor as they follow along can encourage employees to feel more engaged and present in their mindfulness training.
Roundtable Learning provides a full-circle perspective to deliver training that meets your learners’ needs and produces real performance results. Contact us today to learn more about how Roundtable’s custom learning solutions can benefit your organization.
Bender, Michele. “The Real Reason You Feel Sleepy in the Afternoon.” Fitbit Blog, 17 Mar. 2016, blog.fitbit.com/the-real-reason-you-feel-sleepy-in-the-afternoon/.
Byrne, Ellen Keithline, and Tojo Thatchenkery. “How to Use Mindfulness to Increase Your Team’s Creativity.” Harvard Business Review, 12 July 2018, hbr.org/2018/07/how-to-use-mindfulness-to-increase-your-teams-creativity.
Byrne, Ellen Keithline. “Mindful Creativity: An Exploration of a Mindfulness Intervention on Workgroup Creativity.” PQDT Open, 2017, pqdtopen.proquest.com/doc/1891619873.html?FMT=ABS.
“Healthy Mind, Healthy Life.” Mindful, www.mindful.org/.
Staff, Mindfull. “Jon Kabat-Zinn: Defining Mindfulness.” Mindful, 11 Jan. 2017, www.mindful.org/jon-kabat-zinn-defining-mindfulness/.