Mindfulness tips for the workplace

There are plenty of ways to practise mindfulness at work, to help combat stress and reduce distractions  
by Bethan Rees

According to non-profit company Mindful, “mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us”. A Forbes article by Jeena Cho highlights the scientific-based benefits of mindfulness, which include reducing anxiety; potentially preventing and treating depression; reducing distractions; and improving cognition. 

All of these benefits can be conducive to a healthy, efficient work life, and firms in financial services are starting to implement directives with a focus on mindfulness, including challenger bank Monzo, which hosts group meditation sessions every week. In October 2018, the Mindful Business Charter was drawn up by Barclays with law firms Pinsent Mason and Addleshaw Goddard. Organisations that sign the charter are pledging to promote a culture of openness about mental wellbeing. So far, firms including HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group and NatWest have signed the charter. 

Whether the firm you work for is actively employing mindfulness tactics or not, there are ways you can practise mindfulness individually too. 
Breathing and meditationAccording to a blog by patient monitoring company Spire Health, “mindful breathing can be an especially powerful technique when trying to calm yourself in a stressful situation”. The blog explains that “consistently practicing mindful breathing can help reduce a slew of negative emotions, from sadness to envy. It can help mellow you out and prepare you to better take on the ups and downs of daily life”. 

Connected with breathing, meditation is a positive way to engage in mindfulness and should be a simple method to fit around your work schedule and environment. If you’ve never practised the art of meditation before, don’t be put off by the idea of spending half an hour alone with your thoughts. The key is to start slowly and build up. Much like exercise, you have to train your brain to meditate. 

In a Forbes article by MeiMei Fox, she interviews CEO Yunha Kim of Simple Habit, a platform dedicated to mental wellness. Kim recommends starting with five minutes of meditation. “It’s a common misconception that to meditate you need to sit for long periods of time. That’s not true. You can meditate anytime and anywhere, even while commuting, during your lunch break or before giving a presentation,” she says.

Kim also encourages workers to associate five-minute meditations with stressful moments. “When you are faced with a challenging task ahead, such as talking to a difficult boss or employee, take a moment to pause, breathe and clear your mind first,” she says. 
Mindful routinesIn an article for Harvard Business Review, Rasmus Hougaard, managing director of Potential Project, a global leadership training firm, and Jacqueline Carter, international partner and director at Potential Project, encourage breaking up your day with mindfulness techniques. “When you wake up, spend two minutes in your bed simply noticing your breath. As thoughts about the day pop into your mind, let them go and return to your breath”, they report. This is to battle the stress hormones that are released within minutes of waking up, they say, referring to research in a Life Sciences journal. 

On your commute home, you should try and turn your phone off from any distractions and “simply be”, and “let go of any thoughts that arise”. By doing this, Hougaard and Carter say it will allow the stresses of the day to be gone, and you to be present at home with your family.

Hougaard and Carter explain that “mindfulness is not about living life in slow motion. It’s about enhancing focus and awareness both in work and in life. It’s about stripping away distractions and staying on track with individual, as well as organisational, goals”. 
Consciously presentAccording to Kirstin Douglas in a blog for Eminent SEO, a digital marketing agency, being consciously present means noticing what’s going on around you and within you, rather than “just working on autopilot”. Douglas writes: “Being mindful at work means to be aware of, at all times, in that moment, what you are doing while you are doing it. It also involves managing your mental and emotional state.” Whether you’re drafting a proposal for your boss or helping a graduate, “mindfulness requires that you give it your full attention”. When you find your mind drifting to distracted thoughts, acknowledge this, and bring your mind back to the present. She also recommends keeping the “why” at the forefront of your mind, to help motivate you to keep going. 

You can practise mindfulness in any location. A blog by Mind Valley, an education company, gives some exercises on how to be more present, even when you’re walking. Pay attention to the full experience by taking “a moment to focus on the sensations, the small and large movements you make while walking, how objects seem to move past you, the temperature, the wind”.

Has practising mindfulness helped you at work? Leave your comments below. 

Seen a blog, news story or discussion online that you think might interest CISI members? Email bethan.rees@wardour.co.uk.
Published: 03 May 2019
  • The Review
  • mindfulness
  • stress
  • mental health

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