You probably imagine yoga mats and burning incense when thinking about mindfulness. But the practice actually can be applied to all aspects of life, including the workplace

Los Angeles-based author of How We Work, Leah Weiss, defines mindfulness as "paying attention to inattention." In the office, it involves finding ways to reduce distractions while keeping employees present in the moment. This leads to a happier and more efficient workplace.

Unfortunately, the idea of increasing productivity while slowing down seems counterintuitive for most leaders. But once you understand how to implement these practices into your company culture, you'll see how easy it is to reap the benefits.

1. Make the concept palatable.

Many employees are wary of mindfulness. They think of it as spiritual meditation and don't understand how it fits into the workplace. As a leader, it's your job to explain mindfulness.  

"Meditation and mindfulness aren't just hippy concepts," said Ted Dhanik, CEO of the Los Angeles-based digital advertising company engage:BDR.

In fact, a November 2017 study from the University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business found that after participating in mindfulness training, employees were less stressed and more productive. The employees were also less likely to be rude to one another creating a better work environment.

If your employees are skeptical about mindfulness, share scientific research with them. Then, encourage them to try mindfulness exercises like meditation for a short while. Have them document their feelings, energy levels, and productivity before they begin.

After a few weeks, have them reassess those metrics. Talk with them about the changes they've experienced. Once they see the general improvements in their performance, they'll be more open and accepting of all aspects of mindfulness in the workplace.

2. Get off the hour. 

A key tenant of mindfulness is taking time to refocus. Whether it's through meditation, exercise, or listening to music, these breaks allow the mind time to reset to the present. Unfortunately, busy work days allow little time for mindfulness. 

This is why auditing and tax service company Deloitte has reimagined the workday schedule.

"We also encourage our people to incorporate small breaks throughout the day by scheduling 25- or 50-minute meetings," Miami-based national managing director of well-being Jen Fisher said.

Instead of facing back-to-back meetings and appointments, these scheduling blocks build in time for employees to practice mindfulness. As a leader, set the example. If you have a scheduling link to your calendar, make sure that there are always small breaks set aside for mental recuperation.  

3. Check in on tensions. 

Disagreements, confusion, and tensions interfere with employees' attention. Redirect their focus by finding a mindful way to vent about these distractions. Experiential marketing agency CatalystCreativ practices mindful holacracy to keep employees in the moment.

"We have monthly meetings where each and every individual on the team can bring up tensions," said the Las Vegas-based CEO and founder, Amanda Slavin.

The company defines tension as factors impacting where the company is versus where it could be. These regular discussions allow the team to stay grounded in reality.

In addition to these types of meetings, check in regularly with your employees. Focus on progress and what is distracting them. Show employees what they can accomplish in the present rather than situations that are out of their control.

4. Create a space.

Meditation is a big part of mindfulness. But many people don't realize there are many ways to meditate. For the practice to be effective, individuals -- and organizations -- need to find a form of meditation that works for them.

As a leader, it's your job to provide employees a place to meditate. 

"Employers can turn an unused room into a quiet place to give employees a dedicated space for their mental wellbeing," said Lori Casselman, the Toronto-based chief health officer of digital health benefits platform League.

Think about what defines your company. Then create a space that reflects the organization's culture and values. For example, if your company is focused on improving the local community, fill the room with photos of the neighborhood. This will remind employees what they are working for and give them something positive to focus on while they meditate.

Even if your company doesn't have a traditional office, you have options. My employees work remotely. But we set aside two 15-minute blocks every day for wellness. What we call #Fitness15 is my employees' time to break from work and refocus. For some, that means meditation or exercise. For others, it's about taking time to reboot their brain.

Published on: Mar 22, 2018