How to be mindful at work
The workplace can be fast-paced, competitive, and, at times, stressful. It demands that we perform at our best, be productive and focused, and get along with colleagues, management, and/or clients. This is where meditation and mindfulness come in, helping you to feel less stressed, be less reactive, and improve your compassion while simultaneously strengthening areas of focus, productivity, and resilience.
Mindfulness is not a benefit experienced by just employees. Management and leadership also benefit from building a meditation practice because it helps them to develop a greater sense of awareness, clarity, and compassion, and they in turn lead their company or team with those qualities. Not only that, but they also tend to see an upturn in productivity and a downturn in stress-related illnesses. In short, everyone's a winner when the work culture embraces and incorporates mindfulness.
Whether you are an employer or employee, meditating at work can be a great way to ground yourself and get a short, beneficial break in the middle of a chaotic workday. View it as an opportunity to press the reset button. And if you don’t feel like meditating, there are plenty of other ways to practice mindfulness at work. What follows are some ideas for injecting mindful moments into your workday — see which ones work best for you!
For many people, the workday is spent dealing with constant deadlines, distractions, and other stressors all competing for attention at the exact same time — which is why so many inevitably resort to multitasking and operate much of the day on autopilot. But multitasking isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. In fact, a study from Ohio State University found that when students multitasked, they felt more productive — but in reality, they were actually less productive.
And that’s where being mindful at work — being fully present and consciously focused on the task at hand, free from distractions or judgment, and with a soft and open mind — can be hugely beneficial and transformative. By training ourselves to be more present at work through mindfulness, we learn to take care of one thing at a time. Moving forward task by task allows us to create opportunities to be more attentive, aware, and productive and less reactive, overwhelmed, and on autopilot.
What’s more, research shows that mindfulness has a variety of benefits — many of which can positively impact an individual’s job performance. For example, separate studies from Northeastern University found that three weeks of Headspace increased compassion by 23% and reduced aggression by 57%. Another study found that 10 days of Headspace reduced stress by 14%. And a 2018 study published in the American Journal of Medicine found that nurses who used Headspace for 30 days had significant improvements in job satisfaction.
20-minute stress meditation
Meditation for productivity
Give some of these mindfulness exercises a try and see if they help you to feel more present, alive, and productive at work.
Focus on your breath. A simple breathing exercise can have a deep impact on your state of mind — plus, it’s one of the most inconspicuous ways to practice mindfulness at work. Whenever you start to feel stressed during the workday, take a minute to focus on your inhalation and exhalation, feeling yourself starting to relax.
Take regular breaks. Most people don’t think they can afford the time to take a break, let alone regular breaks. But a well-known productivity study found among a group of employees, the 10% who were the most productive had an ideal work rhythm of 52 minutes of work time followed by a 17-minute break. Researchers say that’s because the brain naturally works in high activity for about an hour and then switches to low activity for a short period of time — the perfect amount of time, in fact, for a mindful break.
If you want to start incorporating regular breaks into your day, try setting a timer on your phone to ring every hour. When the timer rings, take a break — it could be as short as one minute at your desk or as long as you can spare — to do a simple mindfulness practice such as a breathing exercise, a 20-minute meditation to let go of stress, or to get outside and take a walk. No matter how you spend them, regular breaks can be particularly effective and rejuvenating after lunch as your mind starts to tire.
Check email less. Email can be a constant source of distraction, making you a slave to your inbox while taking you away from higher-priority tasks. If your job allows it, disable your push notifications and only check your email when you actually have uninterrupted time to concentrate fully on it. When you do open your inbox, try to focus only on what’s important and be aware of what is merely noise.
Actively listen. Try being fully present and mindful of what others are saying throughout the workday, instead of just automatically nodding as you wait for your turn to talk. You’ll benefit from learning to quiet the internal chatter in your head and creating space and openness to process what your coworkers are trying to tell you. And you may even strengthen your relationships with people at work!
Practice gratitude. Everyone has bad days at work — the trick is to use those as an opportunity for mindfulness. The next time you’re feeling a little down at work, try a gratitude meditation and write down one or two things you like about your job. This is a great way to take note of and cultivate appreciation for your job, even when the day isn’t going exactly as you intended.
Use your commute to mindfully unwind. It’s important to unplug at the end of the workday and set boundaries, so you can be truly present at home. The commute can be an ideal time to make this transition. Here’s one way to do it: turn off your phone, radio, audio book, and any other distractions, and simply be — noticing things around you and focusing on the breath. If thoughts about work issues and stress arise, simply acknowledge them and let them go.
Are you an employer looking to add mindfulness to your office? Check out Headspace for Work.
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