Mindfulness at work is often sold as a way to reduce stress and promote wellbeing. While a regular practice will result in both of these benefits, they are really just side effects of something much more interesting.
This may sound controversial, especially considering that mindfulness in the ‘West’ has been sold in through a clinical setting and is only now reaching out into the wider population. Because it’s so young, practitioners are clinging to the stress-reduction and relaxation side of things because it is safe and well-understood. This is especially true when teaching mindfulness at work, as the modern workplace is an environment that demands tangible results and a return on investment.
The irony is that if used to its true potential, mindfulness in the workplace creates a much higher financial return on investment for a company than a relaxation or wellbeing programme. Why? Because it is a way to hack your mind, improve almost every skill related to cognition or emotional intelligence, and it has an impact on neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to rewire itself. This leads quite literally to the practitioner becoming more better at many things than they were before they began meditating. It’s important to point out here that I am not suggesting that the value of mindfulness lies in how it can make workers more profitable. In fact, if I’m honest, I think its value lies in its ability to move us toward a paradigm in which our understanding of ‘profit’ is unimaginably different to what it is now.
To get there, we need to understand how to use mindfulness at work. The full potential of how mindfulness can impact the way we work are just being understood and there is much further to go, and I think we’ll be seeing a huge shift in the next 10 years as we all find our feet in this area.
Two points Open Meditation sees as crucial are:
- Mindfulness needs to be reframed as a skill. This is absolutely crucial, because most people practicing mindfulness at work wants to get ahead, and many are in denial about their level of stress anyway. This causes resistance, which means people don’t practice. If it can be reframed to what it really is, the benefits are clearer and the journey becomes fun.
- Clearly communicating the neuroscience when teaching or discussing the benefits of mindfulness at work. There is a growing body of fascinating evidence out there and it should be utilised.
Eventually, if it is instructed properly and in the right context, I believe mindfulness will become as essential at work as writing emails or scheduling meetings. That might seem quite extreme and too ambitious for someone who doesn’t practice mindfulness meditation every day. For anyone who does, it will probably seem fairly common place. After all, who is writing the emails? Who is making decisions, creating things, solving problems? You are. Any workplace that doesn’t understand that it’s the minds and brains of the people in the office that are the office, is going to struggle in a fast-changing world.
Mindfulness has a place in the workplace that most people don’t grasp yet. It’s my hope that in ten years or less, it will be having such an impact on our evolution as a species that not to incorporate mindfulness at work will seem archaic and inefficient.