Colleen Gavin wants to demystify mindfulness to make it more mainstream – even to help extend its proven benefits to the workplace.
“Mindfulness, put simply, is taking in your present moment with all five senses,” says Gavin, a senior health coach at Capital Blue Cross. “It’s not about yesterday, or tomorrow, or five minutes from now. It’s about focusing on this moment, here and now.”
In the workplace – where endless strings of emails, texts, instant messages, conversations, meetings, and directives can paralyze – mindfulness may actually help increase productivity, Gavin says, “because you’re more focused on the task directly in front of you.”
Big names on board
Mega-employers such as Apple, Google, and General Mills agree, and have implemented mindfulness training and practices at their workplaces, hoping it will decrease distraction, enhance production, and lend a competitive edge. That makes sense in a country where, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), 75% of employees report workplace stress.
In one study published by the APA, researchers found that participants in a six-week workplace mindfulness program displayed less work-life conflict, more job satisfaction, and increased work focus.
“That’s because when you’re mindful, you’re paying attention to the things you do,” Gavin says. “You’re not in autopilot mode. You get more enjoyment out of what you do when you do it with intention.”
In-depth research on mindfulness’ workplace impact is in its beginning stages, but is growing. And the initial data is encouraging. Various studies suggest mindfulness improves productivity, largely by improving focus; reduces stress; and boosts employee morale by promoting empathy and compassion, which lead to better relationships.
“You’re paying more attention not just to the words or work you’re working on, but the way words are said,” Gavin says. “And you’re able to read your coworkers better; you’re able to foster relationships.”
Employers can help build mindfulness among their staffs by encouraging:
- Conscious choices to lower distractions – things like turning off pop-up notifications, answering email only during predetermined times, and finishing one task before starting the next.
- Breathing exercises that instill calmness.
- The STOP technique when stressed – stop and pause, take a deep breath, observe what is happening (good or bad), and proceed.
- Simple workplace meditations.
Here to help
Capital Blue Cross actively encourages mindfulness among its employer groups through a series of in-person and virtual workplace presentations, including:
- A mindfulness presentation.
- A breathing techniques and meditation course.
- Stress management seminars.
Mindfulness is more than a trendy throwaway term, and Gavin wants people to know its benefits transcend a few fleeting moments of calm.
“Many people don’t realize how much mindfulness enhances your world,” she says. “A lot of people think it’s just for stress management, but mindfulness makes you more aware of things that you would not otherwise notice.”