Instilling a mindfulness culture in the workplace not only improves focus but also the ability to manage stress and how people collaborate, suggests a new comprehensive analysis of mindfulness research.
A new thorough review of mindfulness studies, co-directed by a management scientist at Case Western Reserve University, reveals that instilling a mindfulness culture in the workplace helps not only focus but also the ability to manage stress and how people collaborate. “Historically, companies have been reticent to offer mindfulness training because it was seen as something fluffy, esoteric, and spiritual,” said Christopher Lyddy, an organizational behaviour doctoral candidate at Case Western Reserve’s Weatherhead School of Management. “But that’s changing,” he added.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness, defined as present-centred attention and awareness, emerged from Buddhist philosophy and has been cultivated for millennia through meditation practices. Maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and surrounding environment through a kind, nurturing lens is what mindfulness entails. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, which is paying attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—for example, without assuming that there is a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in each moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future. Organizations such as Google, Aetna, Mayo Clinic, and the United States Marine Corps use mindfulness training to improve workplace functioning. The results of this latest research indicate the approach can improve a range of workplace functions.
When you are mindful, you have a greater consciousness of the present
“When you are mindful, you can have a greater consciousness in the present,” Lyddy said. “That’s vital for any executive or manager, who, at any given moment, may be barraged with various problems that call for decisions under stress.” Lyddy and Darren Good, who got his doctorate at the Weatherhead School and is currently an assistant professor at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management, are co-lead authors of the study. They led an exceptionally interdisciplinary team of management and mindfulness professionals, as well as psychologists and neuroscientists. The researchers reviewed 4,000 scientific papers on various elements of mindfulness, distilling the knowledge into a user-friendly handbook that documents the impact of mindfulness on how people think, feel, behave, relate, and perform at work.
Impact of mindfulness on work efficiency
Contemplating Mindfulness at Work (An Integrative Review), their findings were published in the Journal of Management. “Remarkably, scientists have found the effects of mindfulness consistently benign,” Lyddy said. “Of the thousands of empirical studies we read, only two reported any downside to mindfulness.” A small but growing body of work in the management area suggests mindfulness is linked to better workplace functioning.
Among the study’s conclusions:
• Mindfulness tends to improve general human performance. Mindfulness enhances attention, cognition, emotions, behaviour, and physiology, according to research from psychology, neuroscience, and medicine.
• Mindfulness has been demonstrated to improve three aspects of attention: stability, control, and efficiency. The human mind is thought to wander nearly half of the time we are awake, yet mindfulness can help us stay focused in the present moment. Individuals who underwent mindfulness training were found to be more alert in both visual and hearing activities.
• Although mindfulness is an individual trait, preliminary research indicates that it influences interpersonal behaviour and workgroup interactions.
• Mindfulness has been shown to strengthen relationships by increasing empathy and compassion, implying that mindfulness training could improve organizational processes that rely on successful leadership and teamwork.
According to Lyddy, the research revealing considerable and diverse advantages of mindfulness corresponds with a growing practical interest in mindfulness training on a national and global scale. For example, the British Parliament recently established the “Mindful Nation UK” initiative, which aims to use mindfulness to benefit various sectors and increase national health, productivity, and well-being.
Materials provided by Case Western Reserve University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length; https://greatergood.berkeley.edu
D. J. Good, C. J. Lyddy, T. M. Glomb, J. E. Bono, K. W. Brown, M. K. Duffy, R. A. Baer, J. A. Brewer, S. W. Lazar. Contemplating Mindfulness at Work: An Integrative Review. Journal of Management, 2015; 42 (1): 114 DOI: 10.1177/0149206315617003
Case Western Reserve University. “Mindfulness in the workplace improves employee focus, attention, behaviour, new management-based research concludes.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 March 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160310141455.htm>.
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