Mindfulness in the Workplace

By Daniel Myrick

Updated Over a Week Ago

Minute Read

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Though many factors in the workplace are not in the employee’s control, your feelings and the ways that you deal with issues are personal and can be controlled. Mindfulness can make the workplace more enjoyable and maximize productivity. It has often been suggested that happiness leads to better productivity.

Some even ask if it’s productivity that makes people happier. Whether the chicken comes before the egg is an interesting debate, but ultimately unrelated to being happy or productive. Simple mindful practices are an efficient way to create a better job.

Mindfulness, deftly defined by Psychology Today, is “a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.” This mindful revolution infographic spells out mindfulness simply and applies it to teacher-student relationships. The concepts, such as workload, burnout, time demands, bullying, and performance, translate well to the workforce, and the benefits shown indicate a path to a more powerful self, so you complete tasks and succeed.

Here are some basic elements of mindfulness that can change work experiences for the better.

Be In the Moment, Lose Distractions

This may sound like it is easier said than done, but it is the heart of mindfulness and needs to be practiced. Being in the moment involves accepting situations as they are because you can’t change everything, and those changes you can make require clear-headed plans. Being in the moment also requires you to remove distractions. In group work, this may involve redirecting a co-worker to the task or meeting topic at hand. For personal tasks that need attention, wearing headphones can be one strategy to tune out conversations and other distractions.

Observe Yourself and Work Objectively

When focusing on a task, think about it from the outside and the inside. Inside thinking (viewing a task itself and the steps needed to get it done) will allow you to concentrate directly on the work. Outside thinking (how others might see a task) allows you to have a global perspective of the importance of a particular task. Be cognizant of what the overall goal is. How does a task fit into the picture?

Think of yourself in the same ways. Consider not just your feelings but also how other people might see you. This sort of third-party perspective can help you understand your role in a more objective way. Consider the mission of the company overall and then understand how you fit into the picture. A truly great work environment involves teamwork, and it’s hard to be a team player if you don’t understand your position.

This psychology of the office space infographic illustrates the evolution of the office over the last half-century. Changes in workplace culture have been numerous, and every change has been made to maximize efficiency. Efficiency comes with understanding a goal and planning its execution. It is important to have a good grasp of your workplace, knowing the culture and your role, to be efficient and productive.

Not Judging Yourself or Others

Judgment can be counterproductive to mindfulness because it places definite values and restrictions on a viewpoint, whereas the goal of mindfulness is to be able to see the entire picture.

Don’t project thoughts onto other people. For example, if your boss is mad at you, that can have an impact on the way you perform your job. You may only imagine that your boss is mad at you and projecting your assumptions. In the end, it doesn’t matter how your boss feels because, ultimately, if you do a good job, your boss won’t be mad. Tune out the distraction and get on with work.

Similarly, a co-worker who bullies or makes fun of you can impact the way you perform your job. For starters, don’t contribute to bullying or fighting back, and then you won’t worry about whether people are doing the same to you because its effect on you will be different. Also, it may only be your perception that someone is making fun of you when they are just trying to forget about their bad day with a joke. Regardless of the circumstances, tune out the distraction and get on with work.

Take Breaks

This sounds obvious, but it’s a huge trap for many workers. Many people use breaks as a time to vent. However, a break should be exactly that – time away. Do something away from your workspace. Think about things other than work to give your mind breathing room and fresh air. Read the paper, take a nap, eat something, watch squirrels run up trees, whatever takes your mind off work.

The flip side to this is to not bring your outside life into work. Think of work as a break from home life and home life as a break from work. Don’t bring your cell phone to work, or at least into your workstation. You can’t be fully engaged in personal matters while you are working and vice versa.

Build Honest and Positive Connections

Integrity and honesty toward yourself and others are the first steps to being mindful and building collaborative relationships. Make sure you are doing things for the right reasons and not taking shortcuts with your efforts or your co-workers’ efforts. Having healthy relationships will have an untold impact on how much more enjoyable your work life becomes. Getting involved in fights, gossip, or other distracting behaviors takes away from relationships and can become a huge hindrance to mindfulness.

Take Your Mind Off the Money

Money is an outside issue unrelated to the job at hand. While it’s important that you are getting paid your worth, it’s better to think about that at the bank or the store. While you are at work, take care of work, and the money will take care of itself. While you are at home, being mindful of the money you also make has a way of taking care of itself. If the money isn’t enough, then either a lifestyle change or a job change may be necessary, but letting that affect your work is counterproductive.

Be Healthy in Daily Life

Exercise is a good idea if you work in an office job. Resting activities might be a good idea if you work in a physically grueling job. It’s also good to be part of a community, to have things that provide meaning to your life overall. Otherwise, work becomes meaningless. Whether it’s coming to terms with your spiritual self or keeping your body in good health, it’s important to embrace many different aspects of life to be mindful.

These suggestions aren’t for everyone, but some will find them helpful. Certainly, if something makes you unhappy, it can’t hurt to try new things. Change what you can; don’t worry about what you can’t. The ultimate point is to be able to consider issues and be mindful of the world around you. If you are not looking at things honestly, you can’t have a good plan for change, and things will always remain as they are. It’s up to you whether you will ultimately like your job or not.

How Do You Stay Mindful in the Workplace?

If you have ideas you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Daniel Myrick
Daniel Myrick
Daniel is a freelance writer and observationist, former English teacher and failed comedian. He is an ardent champion of terrestrial, freeform radio and a DJ at Radio Boise.
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