It might sound like something Yoda would advise (he tells Anakin Skywalker a few times in the prequels to be “mindful of your thoughts”), but the practice of mindfulness can not only help improve your own mental and physical health, but could also have knock on effects for workplace productivity.
First, let’s take this back a notch and explore what mindfulness is. A dictionary will tell you that it’s a mental state in which you acknowledge what you’re doing, feeling and being in any one moment. It’s a feeling of inner consciousness, a sense of greater awareness. Basically it’s just paying attention properly.
So take someone who’s been driving along for ages and hasn’t given a thought to where they’re going, then suddenly it hits them that they don’t know where they are. That instant where their brain focuses on the present moment and realises what’s happening? That’s mindfulness.
There are a few factors that make up this process. Being aware of what you are thinking and doing; consciously making decisions rather than letting auto-pilot call the shots; and taking a mental step back from each situation, evaluating it and responding wisely are some.
It may sound a bit wishy-washy at first, but it’s starting to catch on in the world of business with the likes of PwC, Google, KPMG and GlaxoSmithKline among many others integrating it into their work practices. So the obvious question here is: what benefits can it bring to a workplace? Or more specifically in this case, to productivity.
Firstly, we have to acknowledge that Yoda was right all along – being mindful of your thoughts can help you make wiser decisions. This is because regular meditation of this kind actively increases activity in parts of the brain which are involved in storing memories and learning new information. So for the employee giving PowerPoint presentations, the receptionist keeping a catalogue of everyone’s tasks and the interns trying to take on a wealth of industry knowledge all at once, mindfulness can make them more effective at their roles.
Not only that, but it can also help improve one’s senses when it comes to compassion and empathy. Now neither reflects accurately on the perception many people have of high-powered city jobs (it’s a dog eat dog world out there, right?) but in reality, there isn’t a job in the world where being able to remain calm with others isn’t a bonus. It reduces tension in the office, relieves everyone being burdened with added stress and stops team morale from breaking down. How to stay calm with everyone? Well being able to see things from their point of view and acknowledge their grievances is always going to help.
There are plenty of benefits to run through, but ultimately the endgame is that practising mindfulness can improve the state of your mind and body, both of which contribute towards your ability to remain productive in the workplace and the knock-on effects that has on others. If they can stomach the Yoda jibes for a few days, it’s surely worth any CEO’s consideration.