Mindfulness in Business. Seriously?

November 30, 2023

Susan Keane, an experienced workplace mindfulness facilitator, graduate of the Oxford Foundation Mindfulness in the Workplace programme and KeepWell mark assessor, discusses the impact of integrating mindfulness-based practices into the workplace and important considerations before you start.

‘Mindfulness in business? Seriously?’ This is not an uncommon reaction towards mindfulness-based workplace interventions. While this is quite understandable, after twenty-five years working in the corporate sector and through extensive insights gained as a KeepWell Mark assessor reviewing the impact of wellbeing interventions, I can assure you that mindfulness can play a vital role in the workplace when implemented in a sustainable and supportive way.

It is only since the 1970s that mindfulness has progressed from being an eastern-steeped contemplative practice to a rigorously and scientifically tested tool that is found to be effective in building mental stability, strengthening self-awareness and improving emotional regulation. Mindfulness is a key component for building emotional intelligence capital in the workplace. In the last decade, there has been increased research about its effectiveness when implemented into a workplace setting.

What is Workplace Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a self-development tool. They say mindfulness is caught and not taught; but to catch it, one needs to have discipline in terms of practice. Mindfulness interventions in the workplace go beyond the traditional techniques of sitting meditations or chanting. Rather, it is a way of being that is embodied in how we talk, listen, walk and be.

The intention of mindfulness at work interventions is to foster greater awareness of the team and group dynamics in the workplace. Reitz & Chaskalson (2020) share the following insight, ‘…members are collectively aware of the team’s interactions, objections, tasks, roles, and dynamics. That awareness emerges because of the team regularly paying attention to these factors, openly and non-judgementally.’

We are all programmed to have judgements. Diversity and Inclusion is an important element of most organisations’ policy frameworks, which educates employees on equality and inclusion in the workplace. The practice of mindfulness can help employees to move from learning to acting. Additionally, mindfulness-based workplace interventions support employees in challenging unconscious biases by widening the lens from a personal to a group perspective, and by encouraging challenging questions during reflective practices.

In essence, mindfulness is a way of being, and when weaved into an organisation’s culture it can promote authentic exchanges, build connectivity, and strengthen a culture of psychological safety.

How to have impact with Mindfulness

While engaging in a once-off mindfulness training can be beneficial in terms of improving awareness about mindfulness, it has limited impact on its own. For workplace mindfulness to have impact, commitment is required. Gaining knowledge about what it is, developing an understanding of appropriate practices for the workplace and building confidence to hold mindful spaces is essential to build momentum.

Additionally, from an organisational perspective, there is a need to integrate mindful habits into standard operating processes. Practices such as promoting mindful pauses during the workday, team reflections and regular live meditations are key to building momentum.

HSBC has been a forerunner in demonstrating the positive impact of building a sustainable and employee-driven mindfulness programme. In addition to witnessing improved employee wellbeing, HSBC attributed a 50% reduction in error rates to the mindfulness training.

Key Benefits

Deepening connectively, strengthening mental resilience and embedding safety are some of the key competencies mindfulness helps to build. Such skills evolve through learning but equally important is experiential practice. Professor Amy C. Edmondson, who coined the phrase ‘team psychological safety’, said it takes years to build, and moments to tear down. This can be equally applied to the process of underpinning your organisational wellbeing