The workplace is not a place that most people associate with mindfulness. Our work environments are frequently stressful, fast-paced, and in opposition to our need for rest, presence, and ease. However, as mindfulness teachers, we are likely aware that it does not need to be this way. By introducing mindfulness to the workplace, we can start to shift the way we work and improve wellbeing for both the organization and the employees within it.
What is Mindfulness for the Workplace?
First, it can be helpful to clarify what mindfulness at the workplace entails. When we are teaching or leading mindfulness practices in a business setting, what is the goal and how do we achieve it?
Mindfulness in a workplace context is not so unlike mindfulness anywhere else. Generally speaking, mindfulness is simply:
the practice of paying non-judgmental attention to our experience, moment to moment.
How this looks in a business setting can vary, just as it does in our life outside of work. For example, mindfulness practiced at work can look like:
Regardless of how it looks in practice, the goal when we are teaching mindfulness at the workplace is to enhance present moment awareness of any given moment. It can also be catered towards specific challenges that employees face, such as high stress levels, difficulties staying focused, or anxiety about particular work interactions.
How we begin to achieve these mindfulness goals in a workplace begins by understanding what the benefits are and being able to clearly communicate them.
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The Benefits of Mindfulness at Work
If we are wondering how to teach mindfulness in a corporate setting, it can be helpful to more deeply understand our reasons for doing so. A comprehensive understanding of the benefits of mindfulness at work is not only helpful for us as teachers; it can also help us to convey the importance of these teachings to company heads and employees.
Some possible benefits of mindfulness at work include:
In addition, mindfulness teachings equip both employees and leaders with the tools required to more effectively navigate change and challenges. For instance, mindfulness can improve the way employers offer feedback or how employees respond to unforeseen events. It can encourage all individuals within an organization to approach difficult situations with greater presence, patience, curiosity, and compassion.
How to Teach Mindfulness in Businesses
Since each workplace is unique, there are no definitive rules for how to teach mindfulness in a workplace setting. With that said, there are some general tips we can keep in mind when preparing to guide employees of any business:
Understand why mindfulness is important.
Before teaching mindfulness in a corporate setting, the employer needs to be on-board. This is why it is crucial to really understand why mindfulness is so important. What can it offer to the employees of an organization? How will it support the wellbeing of the business as a whole? Get clear on the importance of mindfulness so that you can effectively show the leaders of any organization why they should invest in these teachings for their employees.
“When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection with one another - and ourselves.”
Learn more about the people you will be working with.
What are the unique needs of the individuals you plan to work with? What are their primary stressors and struggles? While mindfulness is the same at its core regardless of who we teach, we can cater the way that we teach it to best suit the individuals we are working with. What unique challenges can we help them to address through mindfulness?
Also, try to get a sense of how much mindfulness experience the group has prior to your work with them. Chances are experience levels will be varied, but the organization could have previously invested in mindfulness workshops for their employees.
Cover appropriate topics.
Once you have an idea of who you are working with and what their interests and challenges are, consider what topics you want to cover. There are numerous mindfulness-related topics you can explore, including:
Consider the logistics.
Another key point to consider is that each organization will have a unique space available for your mindfulness sessions. If guiding teachers, is their gym space available? In a corporate setting, will you be teaching in a boardroom? Will you have speakers for music or mats for movement? Understanding the unique layout of the workplace will help you to plan your session appropriately.
Create a structure for your teachings.
While you might offer a one-off mindfulness session, many workplace mindfulness programs run for a set number of weeks. For instance, you might lead 2-hour sessions once per week for four weeks. Or, you might lead shorter lunchtime practices every Monday for ten weeks. Once you know how much time you will have with a group, you can structure your teachings accordingly.
Offer actionable tools that employees can continue to use.
Remember that the purpose of teaching mindfulness in a workplace is not to offer a ‘feel good’ experience or an ‘escape’ from the everyday. For mindfulness teachings to be effective, employees should learn how to incorporate these practices into their daily lives. Offer actionable tools such as short, easy-to-remember practices or mindfulness worksheets that they can return to on their own time. Handouts are invaluable.
8 Resources for Teaching Mindfulness at the Workplace
When teaching mindfulness in these settings, we can find support with mindfulness exercises for work. Explore the following resources and consider if any of them might be helpful for you when developing a workplace mindfulness program.
Cognitive bias is prevalent amongst humans and impacts our thoughts, our feelings, and our decision making. To enhance critical thinking and effective decision making in the workplace, we can enhance our awareness of the different types of biases we each experience. This course is designed to help reduce workplace bias by increasing awareness.
Another helpful resource we might include in our teachings is this mindfulness worksheet to help employees carve out more quiet time at work. This worksheet can be filled out during a guided session, providing direction as to how they might practice mindfulness in small pockets of quiet time later on.
If you are working with a group of executives or leaders in any field, this meditation script may be of use to you. This guided practice invites leaders to reflect upon their values and role as a leader. It encourages thoughtful reflection and can be followed up with time and space to share.
Differences of opinion are inevitable in a workplace. With many choices to be made on a daily basis, it is not possible for everyone to see eye-to-eye all the time. However, we can enhance openness and understanding with this mindfulness worksheet. ‘Exploring Another Viewpoint’ invites us to consider what lives behind ideas or opinions that we have difficulty understanding.
Another practice we can use when teaching workplace mindfulness is that of progressive muscle relaxation, or squeezing and releasing stress. This worksheet offers instructions on how to practice this type of relaxation technique. It also includes reflection questions that employees might answer to enhance awareness of the relationship between stress and their physical body.
“Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.”
Additionally, it can be helpful to enhance employee awareness of core career values. What was it that drew each person to this work in the first place? Since many employees lose contact with their values overtime, it can be helpful for many to get back in touch with their professional values. This worksheet encourages this type of mindful contemplation.
We all have our judgments, and while there is nothing innately wrong with this, our judgments can impede our ability to connect and to feel content. In the workplace, unexamined judgments can fuel our biases and foster a negative workplace climate. This meditation script can help you to guide employees to note their judgments without judgment.
Despite it being the last on the list, mindful breathing exercises are fundamental to mindfulness teachings – no matter what setting you are teaching in. These exercises provide different ideas as to how you can introduce breath awareness to the group you are working with. It also offers insight into where breath awareness originated and explores the benefits of mindful breathing.
- 1Arendt JFW, Pircher Verdorfer A and Kugler KG (2019) Mindfulness and Leadership: Communication as a Behavioral Correlate of Leader Mindfulness and Its Effect on Follower Satisfaction. Front. Psychol. 10:667. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.00667
- 2Hülsheger, U. R., Alberts, H. J. E. M., Feinholdt, A., & Lang, J. W. B. (2013). Benefits of mindfulness at work: The role of mindfulness in emotion regulation, emotional exhaustion, and job satisfaction. Journal of Applied Psychology, 98(2), 310–325. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0031313
- 3Zeidan, F., Johnson, S. K., Diamond, B. J., David, Z., & Goolkasian, P. (2010). Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: evidence of brief mental training. Consciousness and cognition, 19(2), 597–605. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.concog.2010.03.014
- 4Kersemaekers, W., Rupprecht, S., Wittmann, M., Tamdjidi, C., Falke, P., Donders, R., Speckens, A., & Kohls, N. (2018). A Workplace Mindfulness Intervention May Be Associated With Improved Psychological Well-Being and Productivity. A Preliminary Field Study in a Company Setting. Frontiers in psychology, 9, 195. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00195