Mindfulness works as a strategy to improve performance and productivity in the workplace. As Google, Aetna, General Mills, and Target can attest, bringing mindfulness to the workplace decreases employees’ stress levels and improves their focus, clarity, decision-making skills, and overall happiness and well-being.
To help HR and talent management professionals understand the benefits of mindfulness on organizations, the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School developed the Executive Development white paper, Bringing Mindfulness to the Workplace.
White paper author UNC Executive Director Kimberly Schaufenbuel explains that although “mindfulness practitioners can see great impact personally and professionally in recharging and regaining productivity, employers are not easily convinced that investing in reflection, openness, and thoughtfulness will impact the bottom line.” However, the white paper reports that studies by the National Institute of Health UK, the University of Massachusetts, and the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Harvard University suggest that mindfulness at work:
- reduces employee absenteeism and turnover
- improves cognitive functions, such as concentration, memory, and learning ability
- increases employee productivity
- enhances employer/employee and client relationships
- improves job satisfaction.
Clearly, mindfulness can help all employees, but studies show that it can be particularly beneficial for senior leaders. William George, former chief executive of healthcare giant Medtronic, said in an article in FT Magazine: “The main business case for (mindfulness) is that if you’re fully present on the job, you will be a more effective leader, you will make better decisions.”
This idea is supported by data from Mindfulnet.org, which finds that mindfulness assist decision making because it helps leaders “move beyond their familiar ways of thinking and seeing the world and become open to new ways of listening, leading, responding, and innovating.” The bottom line here, writes Schaufenbuel, is that mindful leaders “take the time to consider all of the attributes of the different options, making more informed, current decisions.”
Organizations looking to cultivate mindfulness can follow the example set by Google. According to Bringing Mindfulness to the Workplace, Google finds that its mindfulness programs “are good for the company because they teach emotional intelligence, which helps people better understand their colleagues’ motivations. It also boosts resilience to stress and improves mental focus.” And participants of Google’s “Search Inside Yourself” program agree.
“Search Inside Yourself” consists of 19 sessions or an intensive two-and-a-half day retreat, and is designed as a contemplative training program that helps participants learn to better relate to themselves and to others. The training consists of three parts: attention training, self-knowledge development, and how create mental habits. Bringing Mindfulness states that attendees of the Google program report “being calmer, more patient, and better able to listen. They also say the program helped them better handle stress and defuse emotions.”
Learn how Aetna, General Mills, and Target are incorporating mindfulness into their organizations by downloading Bringing Mindfulness to the Workplace.