Mindfulness at work: improve performance and employee well-being

What is mindfulness at work and how can it help with employee productivity and well-being? With the rise in hybrid working, employees are responsible now more than ever for managing their own workloads and prioritising tasks. Many employees have never experienced freedom like this. Whilst they might be happier and more productive when given the opportunity to have a better work/life balance, many aren’t sure where to start with setting boundaries, or communicating effectively about their workload.

By creating a culture where it’s okay to speak up if you’ve got too many tasks on your to-do list, or to challenge existing ways of working, we’re empowering employees to focus on their most important tasks and be more efficient. In turn, we’re likely to get the most important things done and see better results than ever.

The starting point for achieving a culture like this? Encouraging employees to reflect, become aware of what needs to change and take deliberate action.

 In other words, bringing mindfulness into the workplace.

8 minutes to read

by Laura Bull/ 18th February 2022

What is mindfulness, anyway?

Mindfulness is defined as ‘the quality or state of being aware of something’. Usually, this is spoken about in terms of being aware of one’s own mental state or emotional well-being, but what if we brought those things typically associated with relaxation into the day-to-day of our working lives?

A shift in work patterns – mindfulness and new ways of working

Over the last few years, work patterns and habits have shifted completely. During the pandemic, our work and home lives have collided. As a result, we’re now more in control of our schedules and workloads than ever. Or maybe we’re not.

We’ve all been there – starting the week with the best intentions. Then somehow our calendar fills up, our to-do list grows exponentially and what used to be a five minute chat while making coffee is now an hour-long Zoom meeting.

It used to be easier for employees to quickly check in with a manager to make sure they were prioritising the right work. We even had more breaks in a physical office, through light-hearted chats with colleagues and rounds of tea making.

In this new hybrid way of working, we no longer get those natural (even enforced) breaks in a day, or chances to check in. So it’s important for employers to empower their workforce to create their own.

Encouraging reflective thought

In order for people to avoid burnout and improve efficiency, they’ve got to be aware of their efforts and actions to prioritise, delegate and have frank conversations about everything they’ve got on their plate.

In fast-paced work environments where everyone is so passionate about their work and the impact it could have on the world, it can be difficult to find the time to stop and take a breather. It’s even more difficult to truly understand what work will have the biggest impact and create change that will get us closer to our ideal vision of the future.

The challenge of encouraging your employees to focus on impactful work is actually instilling the belief in your workforce that they are in control of their actions and can effect change.

Mindfulness at work: actionable steps

Here are a few ways mindfulness can be brought into the workplace, so your employees can focus on getting the most important things done.

Start the week with an intention

Before they even dive into their first task of the week, have your employees think about what they need to do this week to be their most effective, impactful selves.

This doesn’t necessarily have to relate to finishing a particular task. It could be about deliberate action, improvements to ways of working or simply setting boundaries to give themselves the headspace to devote to a challenging (but important) task.

It’s not enough to just casually mention this once though. In order for it to become a valuable tool for your employees, it needs to be something you share with each other regularly, and reflect upon at the end of the week. That way you’ll be able to see if people have achieved their intention, and what the results of achieving it were.

Encourage regular task prioritisation

When people love the work that they do, creativity and collaboration are often in abundance. But this can often mean lots of wonderful ideas about how to achieve your vision, with little thought as to which are the most important tasks to get you to your current goals.

This is where regulation, reflection, and prioritisation of the key tasks to be done is important. And not just prioritisation, but active deprioritisation.

In order to understand the most important tasks for your business, you could ask your employees to complete a prioritisation matrix, like the Action Priority Matrix. This helps to categorise tasks based on their effort and impact level so you can ensure a balance of high and low-effort tasks that have a quantified impact on your business goals.

Often it’s tricky to say no to great ideas, but if the consensus is that this won’t have as much impact on your business as investing time into something else, you might just hit your goals sooner.

Celebrate success as often as you look for learnings

Encouraging employees to be deliberate about where they spend their time and how they complete their work is worth it when you see better results quicker. But at times it can feel like a thankless task to be actively managing calendars, setting boundaries and challenging existing ways of working. 

This is why it’s key to celebrate successes as often as you look for learnings. This is part of ensuring a successful adoption of the kind of culture that empowers employees to reflect, make time for important tasks and be as efficient and single-minded about their own objectives within the business.

By showing where this approach is working, you’ll continue the momentum and inspire others to embrace this impact-led approach to completing their work.

It can be easy when reflecting on an experience to pick out the negatives, and only look for improvements, but it’s just as important to understand the successes, so you can lean into your strengths and generate those results again.

Mindfulness is for the mind too

For all this talk of mindfulness in the workplace, let’s not also forget employees who are encouraged to switch off are likely to be happier and healthier in the long run. By giving them permission to own their workloads and think about their time in terms of impact, you’re allowing them to lean into their strengths and specialist subjects.

And regular check-ins to reflect and celebrate can only increase levels of satisfaction, making for better mental well-being and happier, healthier employees.

About the author

Laura is a growth marketing specialist and a business marketing consultant who’s passionate about taking a mindful approach to marketing. By day, she works for some of the UK’s most loved brands (currently an amazing B-corp). By night, she empowers sustainable, vegan and purpose-led business owners to build their own marketing plans through 1:1 coaching and her marketing program, the Mindful Marketing Toolkit.

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