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THE INC. LIFE

The Problem with Mindfulness Companies Aren’t Addressing

According to a new study, most companies are totally missing the practical applications of mindfulness.

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BY Kayla Matthews - 26 Apr 2017

Pensive businesswoman looking away in office

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Being mindful is a good way to get more out of life. It can be beneficial at work as well.

Professional organizations can use mindfulness more thoughtfully to support goals such as change readiness, agility and resilience, according to a study from Cranfield University and The Institute for Employment Studies.

However, it's not enough to simply offer one-off courses in mindfulness. It needs to go deeper and become part of the business's DNA.

"In order for any mindfulness training to be effective and sustainable, it needs to be embedded in the organization's context, and mindfulness tools and techniques need to target culture change as well as individual transformation," says Jutta Tobias, Cranfield senior lecturer and co-author of the report.

Here are four ways business owners and leaders can do more to get the most out of mindfulness programs for employees.

1. Keep Employees Healthy

Healthy employees are the best employees, and mindfulness is a good way to ensure workers are generally in tip-top condition.

Mindfulness programs can help employees stay healthy, which in the long term benefits productivity. Such programs can also save companies money in health care costs.

For example, two years ago the company Aetna reported that it saved $2,000 per employee in health care costs and gained $3,000 per employee in productivity after implementing its mindfulness program.

The general thinking is mindful employees are healthier and more focused. Not only can that create a better work atmosphere, it can also help boost the bottom line.

2. Keep Employees Sharp

Keeping employees healthy obviously benefits a business -- if workers are out sick, they can't get their work done. However, mindfulness has the double effect of making employees more productive when they actually are at work.

Not only does an employer benefit from better worker attendance, it benefits from improved production as well.

A separate study published in the Journal of Management found that mindfulness improves three factors related to attention -- stability, control and efficiency. The study found that those who have taken part in mindfulness training were able to remain focused for longer periods of time on visual and listening tasks.

Mindfulness also has a positive impact on attention, behavior, physiology and cognition. Generally speaking, it can help employees reduce stress levels and achieve better work-life balance, something we all strive for.

3. Change Worker's Routines

It's a common practice. You show up to work and the first thing you do as you settle in is check your email to get the workday started. Businesses striving for mindfulness may want to discourage this pattern, however.

In general, people are more focused and creative in the morning, so that time shouldn't be wasted in the monotony of email inboxes. Instead, employers should encourage workers to spend the initial hour of the day focused on other things, such as strategic work or important meetings and conversations.

Employers may be able to get more out of workers if they're not allowed to check email for the first 30 or 60 minutes of the workday.

Another possible change to the usual routine is to get employees to turn off notifications on their devices. This can be hard for some -- these days, notifications on our phones or tablets can be its own type of comfort. However, they can be a distraction.

It's not possible in every situation, but encourage employees to check email just once per hour, which will help them stay more focused on whatever other tasks they're working on.

4. Embrace the Four Cs

A simple way to encourage mindfulness in the workplace is to make the principles easy to remember using the four Cs -- calm, compassion, clarity and choice.

Increased mindfulness generally makes employees calmer, which leads to all sorts of benefits. It can boost creativity and innovation, while also improving their immune systems.

Encourage employees to show compassion to themselves first, and then to others. Research has found that leaders with compassion are better able to rally groups toward a common goal.

Clarity boosts productivity because it correlates with judgment and the prioritization of goals. Keeping clear minds helps communication, as well as the decision-making and problem-solving processes.

Finally, mindfulness helps people make more informed choices, which of course benefits the workplace. This isn't rocket science -- those who make better choices in their home and work lives benefit themselves and those around them.

To summarize, some companies embrace mindfulness, but research shows there is much more they can do. It certainly won't happen overnight. Creating a culture of mindfulness in the workplace will initially cost time, and possibly money. The investment will be worth it in the long run, however, in the form of a more mindful and productive team of workers.

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