As a healthcare consulting firm, we recognize the importance of reducing stress to maintain emotional, mental, and physical well-being. At the same time, the demands of work and family life can make it challenging to keep that balance. More and more, research is identifying the benefits of cultivating a mindfulness practice as part of a healthy lifestyle. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, defines mindfulness as “awareness that arises through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to the unfolding of the experience moment by moment.” From reducing work-related stress[1] and increasing job satisfaction[2] to improving health outcomes of cancer patients[3] and supporting in addiction therapy[4], mindfulness has broad applications and proven success across a wide range of human experiences.

To help keep the balance, we’ve been making an effort to practice mindfulness in the office. Last December, the Senior Leadership Team gifted staff with a subscription to Calm, a guided meditation app with bedtime stories to support better sleep. We have a #mindfulness internal chat channel on Slack dedicated to sharing inspiring quotes, tips and tricks for reducing stress. The team has also started to stock what we like to call ‘love buckets’ for our meeting rooms. The buckets contain playful items such as children’s toys, bubbles and treats to help lighten the mood of meetings and to provide an outlet for stress. Our most recent initiative, “breather breaks” remind the team to pause for a moment to stretch and reset before plugging back in.

Our Spring wellness programming was focused on mental health: we had weekly yoga classes in April, resiliency training in May, in-house massages in June and we will be running our third mindfulness course in July.

Mindfulness in the workplace makes for better business. It increases employee focus and attention and supports positive workgroup relationships[5]. Here are some simple ways to incorporate mindfulness at work:

  1. Switch from multi-tasking to single-tasking. When you focus on one task at a time, you increase attention and boost productivity[6]. Keeping phones and laptops out of meetings is a great way to introduce this concept[7]
  2. Wake up with gratitude. Make a list of 5 things you’re grateful for every morning to improve mood, strengthen resilience, and change your perception6
  3. Pause for a few moments to focus on your breath7. Simply become aware of the sensation of breathing. Regularly checking in with the breath gives you better bodily awareness and brings clarity to the mind. Use this to reset after a brain-intensive task

By Shae-Lynn Chung

[1] Chin, B., Slutsky, J., Raye, J. et al. Mindfulness Training Reduces Stress At Work: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Mindfulness (2019) 10: 627-38. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-018-1022-0

[2] Pang, D. & Ruch, W. Fusing character strengths and mindfulness interventions: Benefits for job satisfaction and performance. Journal of Occupational Health and Psychology, 24(1): 150-62. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1037/ocp0000144

[3] Witek-Janusek, L., Tell, D., & Matthews, H.L. Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Provides Psychological Benefit and Restores Immune Function of Women Newly Diagnosed with Breast Cancer: A Randomized Trial with Active Control. Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbi.2019.04.012

[4] Perry, M.B. Perceptions of Mindfulness: A Qualitative Analysis of Group Work in Addiction Recovery. Rhode Island Medical Journal, 102(2): 28-31. http://rimed.org/rimedicaljournal/2019/03/2019-03-28-pcpm-perry.pdf

[5] Case Western Reserve University. Mindfulness in the workplace improves employee focus, attention, behavior, new management-based research concludes. ScienceDaily. 10 March 2016. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/03/160310141455.htm

[6] Alidina, S. 10 Ways to Be More Mindful at Work. Mindful. 7 November 2018. https://www.mindful.org/10-ways-mindful-work/

[7] Gelles, D. How to Be More Mindful at Work. The New York Times. n.d. https://www.nytimes.com/guides/well/be-more-mindful-at-work