At some stage or another in our working life, everyone will experience a degree of stress at work. But when stress levels become uncontrollable, they can turn into serious mental health problems and affect your job performance and overall quality of life.
There are many techniques that can be used to reduce stress, one of which is mindfulness. Mindfulness is a technique that has become increasingly popular in workplaces across Australia due to its effectiveness and adaptability.
Here’s what you need to know about mindfulness at work.
The dangers of stress at work
Mental health problems are increasing in the workplace. Stress, burnout, and depression are now leading causes of time taken off work, with one in five Australians admitting to taking time off due to mental health issues. Approximately six percent of workers’ compensation claims in Australia are now related to mental health.
Even if you’re managing to go to work each day, stress can have a serious impact on your job performance. It can reduce your productivity, make workloads unmanageable and decrease your job satisfaction. If several people are feeling the same, this can lead to a negative and unproductive workplace culture.
This is where mindfulness may be able to help.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of everything that’s happening in a particular moment. It involves learning to focus on your own mind and body, your surroundings, and the people around you.
Concentrating on your breathing is often used in mindfulness to help you to take a moment and calm down. It helps you to become aware of all your senses, noticing how everything looks, sounds, tastes, smells and feels in the present moment.
This teaches you how to recognise your mental and physical reactions to different situations. For example, you might notice that your muscles are tense or your heartbeat is faster, which tells you that you’re feeling stressed and you need to calm down. You might also become aware of particular negative thoughts or feelings that come back to you at certain times or in particular situations. This enables you to break these cycles, controlling your thoughts instead of letting them control you.
How to practice mindfulness at work
Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere and in any situation – you don’t have to sit cross-legged on the floor, or even close your eyes! It’s a simple process of reminding yourself to take a step back from your thoughts and notice what’s going on around you.
You can practice mindfulness at your desk, or even in meetings. Really listen to what others are saying. Don’t allow your mind to wander onto stressful issues such as your workload or commitments in your personal life. You can take a quick break every hour to just sit and focus on your breath for one minute, you will be amazed how that simple task can relax and centre you. Try it for 1 week and see if you notice the difference.
Mindfulness can also be practiced as a group, as well as individually. This makes it ideal for a workplace environment. If everyone participates, it reminds everyone to take a step back and listen objectively to others instead of becoming too wrapped up in ourselves and our own workplace stress.
The benefits of mindfulness at work
Mindfulness has a huge number of benefits in the workplace. For individuals, it helps to reduce stress levels and make you more objective about your work. This improves concentration and focus, having a direct positive impact on productivity and motivation.
It also helps with decision-making skills, as it teaches you to consider the facts rather than having knee-jerk emotional reactions. This helps you to make better, more rational decisions which lead to more positive outcomes.
In workplaces where more of the workforce practice mindfulness these workplaces generally experience additional benefits. As workers learn how to control their emotions, listen more carefully and interact without judging one another, this leads to less conflict in the workplace. Communication and team-working are vastly improved.
This more collaborative culture enables colleagues to work together more creatively, using every team member’s skills to find better solutions to problems.
Research shows that up to 90 percent of workers who practice mindfulness have found it has a positive impact on their overall health and wellbeing. This, in turn, results in greater success for your business.
Things to remember about mindfulness
Mindfulness won’t come naturally or instantly. It takes effort and practice to control your emotions while learning to concentrate on the present moment. But, by practicing mindfulness regularly, it will become more natural, and your thoughts and reactions will automatically be more positive.
It helps if you can find a regular time of day to practice mindfulness, to make sure it becomes part of your workplace routine.
If you’d like to find out more about mindfulness at work, please contact us, and our team will be happy to help.