Mindfulness may help you be more present and purposeful in your job. Learning this skill may reduce your stress in the workplace and make you more productive and satisfied at work.
Mindfulness is being present at the moment without judgment and acknowledging your emotions without feeling overwhelmed or critical. It allows you to focus on what you’re doing and block out obsessive thoughts or distractions.
But these descriptions are just scratching the surface of what mindfulness is and what goes into actually becoming mindful of your environment. Mindfulness often requires practice and meditation — among other techniques — to help retrain your mind to block out distractions and focus on the moment.
In practice, mindfulness allows you to be more purposeful in what you’re doing. By focusing on the present task, you can become more productive and potentially reduce stress, and feel more fulfilled in the workplace.
Mindfulness involves being present in the moment without worrying about either the past or the future. It involves not judging what is going on around you, but instead observing it and responding in a calm, rational way.
Mindfulness in the workplace may help you to:
- see what is going on around you
- avoid judgment
- approach your work and relationship with others without bias
For example, when you’re mindful of what you’re doing, you may take a deep breath and then focus on completing a spreadsheet until you get it done.
It can allow you to move through it with fewer distractions and likely get it done faster, allowing you to focus on other tasks or alleviate stress.
When you don’t practice mindfulness the same spreadsheet may take longer to complete because instead of focusing on the task at hand, you may be:
- thinking about your weekend plans
- worried about all the other things you need to do
- wondering why your boss or co-workers could not get the same work done
In other words, you get distracted by what might happen and what happened before you got the assignment. The distraction slows down your work, which could lead to falling behind, feeling stressed, or other possible consequences.
Mindfulness in the workplace may have several potential benefits according to a 2015 study. They include:
- increased work engagement
- a positive mood at work
- overall well-being
Mindfulness may help you avoid multitasking. While you may multitask every day without thinking about it (think driving to work while listening to music or talking with a passenger in your car), multitasking does have some potential drawbacks.
The task switch cost refers to the extra stress placed on your cognitive powers and reduced overall speed and efficiency. In other words, switching between a spreadsheet, emails, meetings, and so on will not efficiently or accurately complete any of them. Think of the “Jack of all trades, master of none,” adage.
- improved subjective well-being
- improved behavioral regulation
- reduced psychological symptoms
- better control over emotional reactivity
A 2015 study found similar results, noting that people experienced better relationships with others in the workplace.
In part, this may be due to how you end up approaching co-workers and managers. Rather than judging or overreacting to what they say or do, a mindful approach allows you to accomplish what’s needed without:
- lashing out
- criticizing others
- comparing the amount of work you have
However, mindfulness is not as simple as deciding one day to be more mindful. It does take practice.
A 2021 study noted that potential hurdles to mindfulness come from a piecemeal approach that both researchers and businesses have taken in implementing its practice.
In other words, going through the motions or not fully understanding what it means or what is involved in achieving mindfulness can lead to poor results. Instead, mindfulness works best when you or your company take steps to fully understand and implement the practice.
Mindfulness takes practice to implement. You won’t be perfect at it, even when you have a lot of practice doing it.
For example, you may be able to focus really well on the spreadsheet before lunch and then let your mind wander to your weekend plans as you stare out the window around 3 o’clock.
But there are some things you can do to try to practice mindfulness in the office and possibly improve your mental health and overall job performance.
How to practice mindfulness at work
Some of the first mindfulness steps you can take include:
- Slow down and pay attention to what is going on around you, taking note of as many senses as you can
- Pay attention to what is going on around you at the moment
- Accept yourself as a good friend or family member does
- Take a few minutes to focus on your breathing in a relaxed state, such as:
- sitting at your desk with your eyes closed if you have a white-collar job
- sitting in your car, breakroom, or restroom if you have a blue-collar job
Find a mindfulness workshop
To fully understand mindfulness, you may find that a workshop may help. Workshops can:
- explain mindfulness
- provide guides on what you need to do
- offer helpful resources
- locate group or office sessions
Mindful.org offers a search site to find teachers and events nearby for people interested in various uses for mindfulness, such as improving leadership and learning about meditation.
Practice being present
Being present can be very difficult. A lot of things compete for our attention on a regular basis, like:
- work demands
- home life
- community events
To help you rehearse, you can try practicing meditation in the office. There are some techniques that can help you become more present in the moment by allowing you to focus your thoughts and block out negative reflections and feelings. Approaches to mindfulness meditation include:
- body scan meditation
- walking meditation
- sitting meditation
- mindfulness and gratitude as a combination
- mindful listening
Focus on a single task at a time
Like other aspects of mindfulness, this can be difficult to implement, particularly without practice. However, when you can, try to focus on doing only one task at a time.
This may allow you to better optimize your time and get more done, which may improve your mood as you accomplish tasks and reduce your stress levels.
For help with this, you might look into an emerging productivity strategy that encompasses a single-task focus. The approach is based on professor and author Cal Newport’s 2016 book “Deep Work.”
Mindfulness at work may help you to focus on the present and react in a calm, controlled manner. It can have several health benefits, such as reducing stress and improving your overall sense of well-being.
It can also help you:
- better relate to co-workers and managers
- accomplish more
- generally feel more satisfied at work
Mindfulness can be difficult to master, and no one is perfect at it. You may find that collaborating with a life coach or therapist may:
- help you to better understand the process
- provide you with tips and tricks
- help you to implement mindfulness in your daily life