With the pandemic causing unprecedented stress, anxiety and upheaval, mental health has gone mainstream. Mindfulness is now big business with mental health apps like Calm and Headspace surging to over 50,000 downloads a day in 2020.

But mindfulness is more the latest health buzzword. It’s an ancient practice with very modern applications in the workplace, proven to increase focus, enhance creativity, and stimulate innovative problem-solving.

Peace of mind and productivity

Forget last week’s disappointing presentation, and stop stressing over the upcoming manager’s meeting – mindfulness is all about casting aside old and new anxieties to live only in the moment.

Rooted in Buddhist philosophy, it cultivates awareness of your surroundings and body through tools like breathwork, meditation, and movement.

If that all sounds a bit too woo for the workplace, science tells a different story. According to data from Headspace, workers who regularly meditate can increase their focus by 14%, and gain an average of 62 minutes of productivity per week.

A 2016 study, published in the Journal of Management, helps explain why – showing that employees who practice mindfulness are more diligent and less distracted, completing tasks more efficiently than their less zen colleagues.

The research also suggested that mindfulness improved employee relationships, fostering greater empathy and communication among co-workers.

Mindfulness and your company culture

Fueled by a growing awareness of how mindfulness can help employees focus, think and communicate better, the corporate world is busy integrating this practice into company culture.

Google’s TEA initiative neatly summarises the core components of mindfulness – Thoughts (what’s on your mind), Energy (what’s your physical state), Attention (where is your focus).

Putting these principles into practice goes beyond encouraging your staff to take a break.

An effective employee wellness strategy challenges mental health misconceptions, fosters a community of care at every level of an organization, and uses different tools to make mindfulness easy and accessible for all workers.

Mindfulness techniques and tools

There are a number of ways to practice mindfulness, Meditation is one of the most popular and well-documented with researchers uncovering some surprising benefits.

Mindfulness meditation, which uses the steady rhythm of the breath to encourage relaxation, can help your employees make better decisions and fewer mistakes.

One study discovered that this type of meditation actually changes the brain – altering neurological structures in the areas of memory, empathy, and stress.

There are a number of digital tools to help employees learn, practice, and develop a regular meditation practice including in-person employee training, online courses, and meditation apps. Big names like Mind Valley, Headspace, and Buddhify are a great place to start if you’re looking for easily accessible options.

And then there’s the low-hanging fruit. Sometimes encouraging mindfulness is as easy as scheduling a wellness 1:1 to check in on staff who are struggling. It could also involve virtual team building activities like a group yoga class or trivia tournament.

Regular exercise is another great way to foster a more mindful attitude, so encourage team members to take some time out to move, stretch and/or go for a walk.

Mindful employees are healthy, happy, and productive employees. And as we continue to navigate the ‘new normal’ of remote working and heightened stress, it’s never been more necessary to integrate this tried and tested practice into your company’s daily operations.

ion8’s certified consultants are ready to help you manage the transition to hybrid or remote working – as well as most anything else – with our extensive range of services. Contact us today for more information on how we can help your employees thrive, boost productivity and improve communication across your organization.