Mindfulness. Everybody’s doing it— employers such Google, General Mills, Ford, Aetna, Target, Transport for London, Adobe to name a few. Many higher education institutions are also including it in their curriculums (i.e.Harvard Business School includes mindfulness principles in its leadership programs.)
Noticing the increased attention of employers and media to this topic one cannot help but ask the question: Why is Mindfulness gaining such popularity amongst employers?
Before offering an explanation to the “why,” let’s define what mindfulness is. Mindfulness is awareness of self and surrounding environment. Practicing mindfulness offers a way to pay attention to the present moment, without judgment. It also offers an opportunity to relate to what we are gaining awareness of.
In the late 1970’s Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, initiated the Mindfulness Stress Reduction Program (MBSR). Since then, thousands of programs based in Mindfulness are being offered around the world. In his landmark book on mindfulness “Full Catastrophe Living” Jon explains: “it is often not the potential stressor that is causing the emotionally overwhelming situation, but how you perceive it and then how you handle it.”
The benefits of mindfulness have been linked to reduction of stress, anxiety and conflict, as well as increase resilience and emotional intelligence, while improving communication. Extensive research data on outcomes of mindfulness training illustrates that an increase in emotional intelligence, specifically empathy and self-regulation also occurs for individuals that cultivate mindfulness on regular basis.
So, let’s look closer at how can Mindfulness profit workplaces.
Above listed benefits enhance individual’s development of areas that contribute to person’s ability to manage conflict and communicate more effectively. Mindfulness also enables us to take a step back and consider alternative perspectives rather than simply reacting to events and using the least intelligent area of our brains to make decisions. Mindful awareness puts us back in control of our emotions, enabling us to choose a more appropriate response instead of habitually reacting without “ seeing a clear picture of the situation.”
Introducing mindfulness into the workplace does not prevent conflict from arising or difficult issues from coming up. But when difficult issues do arise, they are more likely to be skillfully acknowledged, held, and responded to by mindfulness-trained employees.
Contemplative practices utilized in mindfulness are known to promote creativity, as well as better memory, more concentration and less unproductive multitasking. Feedback from customers often indicates that customer rate employees who completed training and apply mindfulness-based techniques as more knowledgeable.
Studies present that mindfulness-based programs in the workplace result in significant improvements in mood and positive affect, vigor, and quality of life as well as concurrent decreases in perceived stress, fatigue, depression, anxiety and anger.
Aetna and other large companies that are led by mindful leaders have their own in-house mindfulness programs. Research completed at Aetna suggests that there is good ROI when it comes to mindfulness. Reportedly, mind-body interventions provided significant improvements in stress levels; sleep and autonomic balance. Another finding was that highly stressed employees incur an additional $2,000 per year in health care costs, compared to their mindful peers. Scaled across a large company, this quickly amounts to high amount of dollars a year in stress-related charges.
Author: Wieslawa Hyzyk
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