How Do Organizations Benefit from Workplace Mindfulness?

compassion engagement leadership mindfulness self-awareness team performance Jul 21, 2022

Mindfulness is proven to enhance well-being, resilience, and life satisfaction. Today many companies offer mindfulness as a wellness benefit designed to boost individual employee’s mental and physical health. It’s a welcomed resource for workers experiencing stress, anxiety, and burnout.

What’s good for the employee just may be great for the company. Evidence is mounting that workplace mindfulness benefits the organization’s health as well as the employee’s. Strategic human resource leaders and innovative executives are implementing workplace mindfulness to drive performance and create a competitive edge.

Could it be that what is good for the employee might just be great for the organization?

Mindfulness has a positive and significant impact on individual-level work outcomes. For example, mindfulness decreases problematic issues that derail even the best employees such as poor concentration and workplace conflict. With mindfulness, absenteeism and tardiness decrease. Productivity and job satisfaction rise. Mindfulness training improves self-awareness, self-regulation, emotional intelligence, empathy, and compassion which in turn enhance job performance and teamwork. Mindful leaders listen more. They foster inclusion and collaboration. In the cognitive realm, mindfulness enhances focus, short-term memory, intellectual agility, decision-making, creativity, and innovation (Yu &. Zellmer-Bruhn, 2018; Kelemen, et. al., 2020; Lui et. al., 2019). Mindful teams are better able to navigate conflict and achieve results in challenging, competitive environments.

Organizations benefit from improved engagement, productivity, job satisfaction, safety and quality, teamwork, collaboration, and innovation (Johnson, et al., 2020). Large companies including Google, Aetna, Intel, General Mills, and Goldman Sacks have benefited from mindfulness training and relay on it to create strategic advantages.

Individual Mindfulness is different from Team Mindfulness

There is more to know about workplace mindfulness as research explores team mindfulness and the enterprise level benefits of making mindfulness part of the business strategy. A good place to start is understanding the difference between individual mindfulness and team mindfulness.

In a simple sense we can define individual mindfulness as a conscious state of open, receptive awareness of the present moment (Kashdan & Ciarrochi, 2013). In the workplace, mindfulness is having your head where your feet are, fully engaged in the task at hand. These are basic definitions of a rich and deep concept, but there is much more to mindfulness. At its core, mindfulness is brain training that creates a sense of calm clarity as we practice it. This is called a state effect, because when we engage in a mindfulness exercise, we enjoy the cognitive and emotional benefits of mindfulness.

Neuroscience also shows that when we practice mindfulness consistently, over time we change our brains. This creates a trait effect that lasts beyond the mindfulness exercise. As a state effect, the gifts of mindfulness become a part of who we are. Mindfulness becomes our nature. By routinely practicing mindfulness, we create lasting benefits that stick with us.

The Benefits of Mindfulness on the Employee Level

Mindfulness has been researched extensively and demonstrated to enhance cognitive performance and improve every aspect our well-being. It helps us respond more effectively to stress in both our personal and professional lives. In the workplace, individual mindfulness is shown to boost a variety of job performance factors including innovation, problem-solving, decision-making, turnover intention, quality, safety, communication skills, and productivity (Yu &. Zellmer-Bruhn, 2018; Kelemen, et. al., 2020; Lui et. al., 2019). Mindfulness is associated with reductions in stress, anxiety, and depression. It decreases burnout and is considered a personal resource to guard against workplace burnout (Cohen, et al., 2005).

When practicing mindfulness, we gain clarity and steadiness. We are able to navigate difficult situations without overreacting. Our thinking becomes more flexibility and we see more opportunities, solutions, and possibilities. We maintain a more positive outlook. Improved self-awareness, self-regulation, and emotional intelligence makes us more effective in the moment (Vago and Silbersweig, 2012). With mindfulness, we are better able to notice what is unfolding in real time. We gain an observer’s perspective, seeing how we are acting and responding as well as noticing how others are responding. Heightened awareness combined with enhanced self-regulation creates agility, enabling us to shift our thinking to meet the demands of the moment (Holzel et al., 2011).

Over time, mindfulness creates neurological changes that help us connect with ourselves and others in a positive, productive way. Regions of the brain that enable self-compassion, empathy, perspective-taking, and compassion for others are developed through mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness enhances our focus, ability to concentrate, short-term memory, and cognitive agility (Hyland et al., 2015). In the workplace, these neurological benefits drive performance and business result through enhanced leadership, teamwork, customer service, and problem-solving.

How are Team and Organizational Mindfulness Different from Individual Mindfulness?

Team mindfulness is distinct and different from individual mindfulness because it applies to the team’s collective processing rather than an individual’s thought patterns or reactions. Team mindfulness is a shared state of open, receptive, present-oriented awareness. It is a collective, nonjudgmental processing of team experiences and interactions (Yu & Zellmer-Bruhn, 2018). When teams are mindful, they interact with an open, accepting, awareness. Mindful teams are more successful in accomplishing difficult, complex assignments that involve conflict and challenge. Team mindfulness supports the development of individual mindfulness among team members. This drives team members’ abilities to recover from stress and promotes engagement (Liu et al., 2020; Dane and Brummel, 2014). Team mindfulness enhances team cohesion and the sense of community at work. It strengthens social support and cooperation among team members. In this way, team mindfulness offers a valuable resource for mitigating burnout among team members. Mindful teams have a more favorable perception of their work environment and are more willing to help others in the organization. (Johnson, et al., 2020). Team mindfulness is strongly linked to psychological safety, which has been found to be a significant factor in team performance (Yu and Zellmer-Bruhn, 2018; Kim et al., 2020)

There are a couple of key take aways here. Frist, team mindfulness is distinct from individual mindfulness. It does not naturally occur from individual team member’s mindfulness. In other words, team mindfulness is not the sum total of mindful individuals. Team mindfulness emerges over time and must be cultivated intentionally. Developing team mindfulness requires a different strategy than promoting individual well-being with mindfulness meditation.

Secondly, organizations benefit from team mindfulness. This is an important point because mindfulness is widely recognized as an effective way to reduce stress and enhance employee wellbeing, but not fully understood in the team and organizational context. Many organizations view mindfulness as a wellness benefit, but are missing the opportunity to intentionally foster team and organizational mindfulness. Doing so can create a significant, competitive edge through enhanced team performance. It is well known that team performance plays a critical role in organizational success (Glassop 2002) and in a fast-paced, competitive marketplace, organizations benefit greatly from team synergy, innovation, and agility (Donaldson et al., 2011).

About the Author

Beth Guyton is an executive coach and workplace mindfulness strategist with a Masters in Industrial and Organizational Psychology who is passionate about creating positive work environments and helping individuals, leaders, and organizations become their absolute best. She is a New Orleans native and well-rooted Dallas transplant who draws on her creative spirit to paint, journal, and make mindfulness simple, easy, and accessible through her work at www.ResiliencyWell.com

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