Mindfulness training in the workplace has been found to enhance focus, lower stress levels, and help foster employee camaraderie, according to a new comprehensive analysis of mindfulness at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
“Historically, companies have been reticent to offer mindfulness training because it was seen as something fluffy, esoteric and spiritual,” said Christopher Lyddy, an organizational behavior doctoral candidate at the school’s Weatherhead School of Management. “But that’s changing.”
Mindfulness is the practice of living mindfully, or consciously, with complete non-judgmental acceptance of what is happening in the present moment. A mindful person is able to observe his or her thoughts and feelings from a distance without necessarily labeling them as good or bad.
Organizations such as Google, Aetna, Mayo Clinic, and the United States Marine Corps use mindfulness training to improve workplace functioning. The findings of this study suggest that mindfulness can improve a range of workplace functions.
“When you are mindful, you can have a greater consciousness in the present,” Lyddy said. “That’s vital for any executive or manager, who, at any given moment, may be barraged with various problems that call for decisions under stress.”
Lyddy is co-lead author of the study with Darren Good, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management. They gathered an interdisciplinary team that included experts in both management and mindfulness, as well as psychologists and neuroscientists.
The researchers looked at 4,000 scientific papers on various aspects of mindfulness, condensing the information into an accessible guide documenting the impact mindfulness has on how people think, feel, act, relate, and perform at work.
“Remarkably, scientists have found the effects of mindfulness consistently benign,” Lyddy said. “Of the thousands of empirical studies we read, only two reported any downside to mindfulness.”
A small but growing body of work in the management area suggests mindfulness is linked to better workplace functioning.
Among the study’s findings:
- Mindfulness has a positive impact on human functioning overall. Research in such disciplines as psychology, neuroscience, and medicine show that mindfulness improves attention, cognition, emotions, behavior, and physiology;
- Specifically, mindfulness has been shown to improve three qualities of attention: stability, control, and efficiency. After receiving training in mindfulness, people were shown to remain vigilant longer on both visual and listening tasks;
- Evidence suggests that mindfulness positively affects interpersonal behavior and workgroup relationships;
- Mindfulness may improve relationships due to greater empathy and compassion, suggesting mindfulness training could enhance workplace processes that rely on effective leadership and teamwork.
Lyddy notes that the new findings coincide with growing practical interest in mindfulness training nationally and worldwide. For example, British Parliament has recently launched a mindfulness initiative called “Mindful Nation UK” that uses mindfulness to help improve national health and productivity.
The paper is published in the Journal of Management.
Source: Case Western reserve University