With the daily onslaught of pop-ups, messages, and notifications, our lives are filled with more distractions than ever before. It’s no surprise the workplace is a feeding ground for this deluge of distraction.
Historically speaking, whenever there are new technological or scientific advancements, people rush to these advancements believing them to be a panacea. They see the possibilities, but often forget the use of what preceded it. Given this, it is those who are able to integrate the old with the new who ultimately succeed in actualizing the potential of new advancements. This principle still holds true today.
Along with the many problems we face are technological solutions. We are tempted to solve the problem by simply using more technology. We end up using productivity apps that give us yet another thing to worry about, or we switch to a new project management platform, but bring all our old problems with us.
In the face of the perpetually distracting technologies, the answer isn’t necessarily a new technology, but a set of age-old techniques that have passed the test of time: the techniques of mindfulness and meditation. People from all walks of life and in all industries are coming to find the benefits that mindfulness can bring to the workplace.
Mindfulness can be a loaded term, so it warrants explanation. Mindfulness, as it pertains to people in the workplace, is the process by which you bring your awareness to the present moment. This often involves taking time to focus on breathing while gradually ridding your mind of extraneous thoughts.
The benefits of mindfulness are far from speculative—they’ve shown tangible results. From sharp increases in focus and productivity to improvements in emotional intelligence, research on mindfulness has shown a wide range of quantitative and qualitative benefits.
Common Elements for Success
Making changes to a personal routine can be difficult enough as it is, so how do business leaders bring a new set of practices like mindfulness into their workplace? It’s different for every organization, but certain common elements continue to stand out as effective. Here are a few helpful tips on establishing mindfulness in the workplace:
1. Start with yourself
Before asking a team to engage in mindful practices, leaders should be well acquainted with mindful practices themselves. Leading up to any mindful culture initiative, it is recommended that a leader go public with these new practices and explain the benefits he or she is receiving.
Once the initiative begins, leaders must remain active role models. It’s been shown time and again that whenever an organization’s leadership is visibly disengaged from their own initiative, it’s only a matter of time before the whole organization drops off. So leaders should remain among the most notable practitioners of the practices they encourage.
2. Encourage “monotasking”
Too often, organizations put “great multitasker” in their job postings and proceed to extoll multitasking as a virtue. Those seen to be doing a bunch of things at once are praised and all others are asked to follow suit. But here’s the problem: Multitasking doesn’t actually exist—only task hopping. And task hopping undermines both mindfulness and productivity.
When switching from task to task, it does not happen seamlessly; rather, it requires time to readjust mindset and get into a new groove. Sometimes task hopping can’t be helped, but if it keeps happening, the quality of everything being done will diminish greatly. So instead, focus on monotasking.
Monotasking is the deliberate effort to focus on a single specific task and put as much focus effort into it until completion. It means getting into a flow for a single task rather than trying to do everything at once. The practice leads to better work and, despite what it might feel like at first, more productivity.
3. Turn it into a team effort
While mindfulness and meditation can be deeply personal activities, they still benefit greatly from team engagement. Often, people are reticent to begin mindfulness practices because they may think it’s more complicated than it really is, or just lack the motivation without it being a part of group activity. This is why group mindfulness activities can help kickstart mindfulness within organizations.
One group mindfulness activity that can be employed easily is a group guided meditation, led by someone well versed in mindfulness, that offers instruction for those new to mindfulness practices. This is a perfect way to get a team introduced to and comfortable with the practice of mindfulness in the workplace. Additionally, group meditation has a way of bringing those involved closer together—leading to more mindful and more fully integrated teams.
4. Find inspiration
One unique benefit in undertaking the lofty endeavor of increasing mindfulness in the workplace is that there are plenty of examples and successful organizations from which you can learn. These organizations include brands such as Nike, Google, and Apple. Employees may find it easier to identify with a well-known brand such as Google rather than identifying with an esoteric mindfulness concept. These brands then can inspire your organization to try new meditation practices and expand mindfulness in the workplace.
Data first: Doing research into these organizations’ mindfulness practices can provide a helpful template through which to model an actionable strategy. It also can provide inspiration by showing the benefits of a well-executed mindfulness program.
5. Make it a tradition; don’t quit
New organizational initiatives tend to start off with a lot of zest and zeal. Everyone is excited to try out a new way of doing things and eager to see the benefits it can provide. But it’s no surprise to learn that 70 percent of new culture initiatives fail due to lack of follow-through. Preventing a gradual decline of mindful practices within your organization means creating new traditions.
While new traditions could mean something as straightforward as a semiweekly mindfulness session, it also could be self-sustaining team practices. Whatever the tradition, it is vital to the success of the mindfulness initiative that it be sustained with the support of leadership.
Hank Ostholthoff is a best-selling author and the CEO of Mabbly, a Chicago-based digital marketing consultancy featured on the INC 500 list of fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. He is dedicated to helping his clients achieve solid growth, and has helped many of them become venture-backed and/or Fortune 500 companies.