Mindfulness as a practice has been around for thousands of years. In fact, many of us have probably worked at being mindful – paying attention to and living in the present moment – through meditation or yoga classes.

But what does mindfulness have to do with our work, and how we work?

And can practising mindfulness make us better at doing our jobs?

It seems large companies like Google and IBM think so. They’ve become mindfulness advocates, embracing the practice of mindfulness as a way of improving self-awareness, self-management and the emotional states of employees*.

And experts like High Performance Mindfulness Coach Emma Murray agree.

“Any business can apply mindfulness strategies to help employees perform better and the practice enables you to tackle each moment in your workday with clarity”, says Murray.

“Employers are really starting to clue in to the benefits – it boosts productivity, reduces stress and enhances wellbeing too. So it’s a win-win for the company and the employee.”

Google and IBM back mindfulness

At Google, the Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute is making waves for its advocacy of mindfulness. As its website says, “Born at Google and based on brain science, SIY uses the practices of mindfulness to train emotional intelligence skills, leading to resilience, positive mindset and centred leadership.”

At Google’s Sydney office, for example, there’s a room where employees can go for meditation and relaxation, and it’s used a lot.

And at IBM Australia, more than 500 employees participate in a mindfulness program, which was introduced to help staff deal with workplace stress.

Why mindfulness matters

Mindfulness matters because the ability to remain focussed and stay in the present moment is a great antidote to our everyday working lives, which are full of distractions. There are constant demands on employees’ attention, which lead to an increase in stress and anxiety. This culture of multi-tasking has seen productivity take a nose-dive. In fact, for almost 47% of the time, people are mentally off-task when working§.

Imagine the difference it would make to your bottom line if employees were 100% on-task and felt more engaged in the work that they do.

Introducing mindfulness into the workplace

For mindfulness to be a success within your workplace, you really need everyone on board – so that people respect other people’s need for the ‘Do not disturb’ sign. But, like all things, convincing everyone that it’s a good idea can be difficult.

“To overcome this challenge, a mindfulness program should be introduced to your employees in terms of how it will help them do a better job, boost their bottom line, meet their monthly target, and so on. It has to be relevant to your company,” Murray says.

“When you explain to employees that they’ll get practical and useful tools for becoming more productive – such as dealing with the constant stream of emails, holding more mindful meetings and developing more effective communication skills – they’re much more likely to get on board.”

The good news is that when it comes mindfulness training, a handy characteristic known as neuroplasticity comes into play.

“Brains can be retrained,” explains Murray. “Put simply, you can teach your brain how to stay on-task so you are truly focused on the job at hand.”

* http://blogs.wsj.com/atwork/2015/03/16/why-companies-are-promoting-mindfulness-at-the-office/, accessed December 2015.
http://www.smh.com.au/business/workplace-relations/mindfulness-takes-over-the-corporate-world-20151029-gkm4mo.html, accessed January 2016.
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/life/health-wellbeing/how-ibm-nab-and-other-companies-are-encouraging-mindfulness-among-staff/news-story/1fe71c7e386620faf7d808bd284b1657, accessed February 2016.
§ https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/your-brain-work/201011/new-study-shows-humans-are-autopilot-nearly-half-the-time, accessed December 2015