Mindfulness in the Workplace

As defined by Dr. Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment and nonjudgmentally.” A simple exercise to begin practicing mindfulness is to sit quietly and focus on your breathing for two minutes.

Dr. Kabat-Zinn’s early focus was on using mindfulness to transform a person’s relationship to pain (this was also my early use of the discipline), but in the last decade, mindfulness has been used inside companies to lower health costs, improve increase employee productivity, help employees stay “on task” and reduce employee stress through a combination of breathing techniques and mental relaxation.

According to Gloria Mark, professor of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine, office workers are interrupted or self-interrupt every three minutes during the day, with distractions coming from both digital and human forms.

In another study in the Wall Street Journal, published by Mark, reported that, on average, employees visit Facebook 21 times a day and check email 74 times.

In his book Mindful Work: How Meditation is Changing Business from the Inside Out, David Gelles describes how mindfulness has gone mainstream with companies as diverse as Google, Aetna, General Mills and Target, all having built extensive programs to foster mindful practices among their workers.

Also, according to a UNC Kenan-Flagler Business Schoolstudy, the benefits of mindfulness can lead to “improvements in innovative thinking, communication skills and more appropriate reactions to stress.”