How to use Mindfulness in the Workplace

The word “job” brings stress to many people. Anyone can use mindfulness in the workplace to reduce stress. Leaders can become better leaders by implementing mindfulness at work. Here are a few practical steps to get you going.

Common reasons for work related stress

Mindfulness in the workplace

We need to understand what can cause work related stress. Here are few common reasons.

  • Strict deadlines
  • Workload and overworking
  • A difficult boss
  • Difficult co-workers
  • Job security
  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Micromanagement
  • Bulling, harassment, and/or discrimination

As you can see, most of the above reasons are not in our control. Can we change the outside world? It will be extremely difficult and add more stress if you try to fix any of the above reasons. Even if you fix some of them, how can you guarantee that it will not happen again?

Then what’s the solution?

Though we don’t have any control of the outside world, we can control ourselves and we have a choice on how we are going to react to the above challenges. We can change our inner world, so that the outside world will not impact us. Stress has no place when your inner world is more powerful than the outer world. Your inner world is your mind. It can bring you stress or joy, pain, or pleasure. With the right mindfulness practice, you can manage work related stress. Let’s see how to do it.

How can you change your inner world?

I have to warn you. It can take a few days, a few months, or even few years to achieve this depending on the current programming and condition of your mind. However, it is achievable.

Step 1

Accept that the solution is an inside job, not outside. This is very important. Don’t go to step 2 without full acceptance.

Why?

Without this acceptance you will have doubt and will be in two minds. This is not a good place to work on your inner world. The following examples will help you to understand this.

Some people become very upset and stressful about weather not working according to their expectation. Some want rain and others want sunshine in the same place, date, and time. Can you change the weather?

Sports fans become very stressful when their favourite team is losing a game. Can they change the outcome?

In the workplace, the word re-structure brings stress to people. Can you stop or control this situation? 

Global financial crisis brings depression and/or anxiety to millions of people. Can you change a global financial crisis?

Why are humans stressing out on things that they don’t have any control of? 

In the Stone Age, humans were stressed out only about two things.

  • An attack from a wild animal
  • An attack from another tribe

With human evolution, desires and expectations increased. Not fulfilling desires started causing stress. Today, it has come to a stage that a simple post in social media can cause stress to someone else.

You can’t control what’s happening in your workplace. But you can control how you react or respond to events and circumstances.

Step 2

This is the most crucial step. This is where mindfulness in workplace goes into action. You are going to use mindfulness to be aware of situations that are going to cause stress. 

Mindfulness means living in the present moment and being aware of what’s happening. You are not going to stop negative thoughts. You are going to be aware of negative thoughts.

To begin, visit Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners page and learn how to develop mindfulness. 

Don’t rush. Take your time.

Once you are comfortable with mindfulness, take the practice to your workplace. Can you be mindful of events causing stress? Can you detect at least one event a day? It could be when reading an email, in a meeting or having a conversation. Live in that moment and be aware of negative thoughts. 

When you detect a negative thought then you can do two things. 

1. Think about the worst-case scenario as a result of the event and become stressed. Have these worst-case scenarios ever happened in the past? There is a 99% chance that they have not.

OR

2. Label the event as “minor” and move on. 

We can assign a value to external events. Your stress level will go up or down depending on the value you are giving to any event or a circumstance. 

Heavy rain can bring joy to a farmer but bring stress to an event organizer who is planning an outdoor event. The farmer and the event organizer are assigning different values to the same event. 

Let’s take a practical example to summarize how to apply mindfulness in the workplace.

You are a member of a project team. The project has a strict deadline. The project is running behind and may not meet the deadline.

Without mindfulness – You are bombarded with negative thoughts on consequences of not completing the project on time. Your mind will assign a significant negative value to “potential” consequences. This will lead to stress, sleepless nights, and anxiety. 

With mindfulness practice - You are bombarded with negative thoughts on consequences of not completing the project on time.  Since you have practiced mindfulness, you will become aware of what’s happening, and you will detect those negative thoughts. You will immediately realize that you can’t control everything but give it your best shot, label the consequence as “minor” and move on.

Benefits of mindfulness in the workplace

Research has found that organizations promoting mindfulness create happier working environments. Following are the main benefits of mindfulness in the workplace.

  • More productive employees
  • Effective decision-making capabilities
  • Less work-related stress
  • Improve creativity and innovation
  • Less office politics
  • Accommodating and supporting workforce