According to mindfulness science expert Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” Therefore, mindfulness practice is a deliberate attempt at harnessing this attention to achieve a flow state to improve efficiency and productivity. It is no surprise that the practice has been gaining traction worldwide as a tool for improving professionally, regardless of industry.
How mindfulness benefits employees
Research as far back as a decade ago found mindfulness positively associated with job satisfaction. A 2012 study of mindfulness in the workplace involving two different groups of employees suggested that mindfulness promotes job satisfaction and helps prevent burnout for employees working in demanding jobs.
“Results showed that state and trait mindfulness are inversely related to employees’ emotional exhaustion and positively related to their job satisfaction,” the researchers from the 2012 study concluded.
Closer to home, in a 2020 study involving three service companies from Eastern China, researchers found a positive indirect relationship among individual mindfulness, recovery level, and work engagement. “The results also show that team mindfulness plays a moderated role in helping employees recover from work stress,” the researchers said.
Researchers examining the effects of mindfulness on work engagement posited that: “Mindfulness as a single construct is positively related to work engagement. The analysis from the facet level of mindfulness illustrates that … employees with refined attentional skills and [who are] accepting [of] the present moment reality were found to contribute more to work engagement.”
Their recommendations? “Organisational programs that focus on building personal resources could use the meditation-based mindfulness programs to help individuals widen attention span and develop a non-judgmental attitude.”
Mindfulness in the Workplace: Does It Really Work? involved mindfulness training for 60 employees of a Midwestern digital marketing firm. After a half-day of training, participants were randomly assigned to a group that did not practise mindfulness during the six weeks, or to a group that practised mindfulness every day for six weeks.
As part of the study, researchers sent surveys measuring employee well-being to the participants’ smartphones throughout their workday for three consecutive days before and after the six weeks.
“Overall, these findings suggest that while small doses of mindfulness training (such as the half-day training) may be enough to increase perceptions of job productivity, longer-term mindfulness training programs (such as the half-day training combined with daily practice for six weeks) are needed to improve work focus, job satisfaction, and a positive relationship to work,” the researchers said.
Mindfulness training for managers
Research also shows that mindfulness practices also benefit managers. A 2016 study found that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) helps managers effectively manage work-related stress and makes them more psychologically resilient.
Middle managers who participated in the MBSR training reported decreased sickness absence and stress levels and improved self-esteem and emotional well-being compared to managers from the control group.
A 2018 study of nurse managers in a North American acute care hospital involved researchers conducting a survey “to measure the impact of mindfulness workshops on nurse managers’ perception of professional quality of life, burnout, and perceived wellness.”
This quantitative study used two survey tools: the ProQOL, a 30-item tool referring to the past 30 days, consisting of three subscales measuring compassion satisfaction, secondary traumatisation and risk for burnout. The second tool was the CBI, which has 19 items with three subscales focused on personal, work-related and client-related burnout.
Researchers found that the mindfulness intervention positively impacted the ProQOL and CBI scores.
“The change in participants’ scores demonstrated that the pleasure one derives from being able to do their work well increased immediately following the intervention. The researchers said the mindfulness intervention also positively impacted the participants’ ProQOL risk for burnout score and the CBI scores for personal and work-related burnout,” the researchers said in the article.
What CHROs can do to cultivate mindfulness
Now that we know that mindfulness training and regular practice can help employees and their managers become more engaged, what can we, CHROs, do to encourage mindfulness in the workplace?
At Naluri, we recommend that CHROs implement the following to ease their people into mindfulness practices:
1. Have a robust Employee Assistance Programme in place
If your organisation has yet to have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) that prioritises mental health and well-being, it is time that you kick-start the process. A good and robust EAP empowers employees with the tools they need to improve their mental health and well-being.
While providing employees free access to a therapist or counsellor for those struggling with mental health issues is commendable, take it a step further and include mindfulness training to ensure greater employee mental well-being and, consequently, improved job engagement and productivity in the long run.
2. Check in regularly with your employees
We all get busy with day-to-day duties. However, don’t neglect your employees in the process.
We recommend you check in regularly with your employees to understand and help them achieve greater mental well-being. For example, you can conduct an anonymous survey of your employees to find out how they are doing mentally and on the job. A little effort goes a long way in this respect, to ensure that your employees feel happy in your organisation.
3. Train your managers to be more empathetic
Not every manager comes to the job with above-average people management skills. Many are technically equipped with the knowledge to carry out their managerial responsibilities. Still, few know how to handle employees struggling with mental health or on-the-job challenges.
As a CHRO, encourage the leaders and managers in your organisation to attend empathy training and mindfulness training to help them become better managers and more caring individuals. As managers, they need to be able to have caring conversations with their subordinates, especially those who are struggling with their mental health and overall well-being.
The buck truly starts with you. By implementing these three simple steps in your organisation to inculcate mindfulness and greater all-around self-awareness among your employees, you will help them enjoy greater satisfaction and engagement on the job. These will ultimately improve productivity and synergy throughout the organisation.