Mindfulness in the Workplace
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Given that psychological research demonstrates that practising mindfulness enables the individual to regulate emotions, maintain focus and decrease stress, practical research is being conducted on the role of mindfulness in the workplace (Choi and Rouse, 2016). This research indicates that mindfulness affects positive outcomes on working memory and cognitive functioning, which enhances employee performance (Hülsheger, Alberts, Feinholdt and Lang, 2013). Mindfulness also teaches workers to reserve judgment when experiencing difficult situations, thereby enabling the employee to make decisions that promote self-concordance and ethical business decisions (Hyland, Lee and Mills, 2015). Lastly, mindfulness increases an individual’s empathy and emotional intelligence, which assists in maintaining interpersonal working relationships based on trust (Reb, Narayanan and Chaturvedi, 2012). These factors make mindfulness training a beneficial strategy for organisations.
Today, employees face unique pressures unknown to previous generations of workers. Continually interrupted by communication through multiple channels − such as email, phone calls, and meetings − on top of assigned work duties, employees are often distracted and attempt to multitask their way through the workday (Choi and Rouse, 2016). Yet each interruption negatively affects the employee’s performance, as the employee must exert additional effort to return their focus to the interrupted task (Levy, Wobbrock and Ostergren, 2012).
After undergoing mindfulness training, employees can focus their full attention on a given task, which frees up their brain to hold more data in working memory and to devote more mental resources to cognitive functions. By decreasing multitasking and improving memory, employees can complete tasks more efficiently (Levy, Wobbrock and Ostergren, 2012).
When an individual interprets an event as negative, their stress level increases. If an individual experiences difficult situations continually in a given environment, such as the workplace, the individual will perceive the environment negatively. This perception is adverse to job satisfaction (Fries, 2009).
By teaching employees to remain open and objective during stressful situations, mindfulness aids job satisfaction. The employee learns to respond rather than react to the situation, and to observe the situation without being influenced by negative automatic thought processes. This response facilitates a more positive evaluation of both the situation and the work environment (Fries, 2009).
Mindfulness also promotes job satisfaction by encouraging self-concordant behaviour. The term self-concordance describes the phenomenon wherein a task is experienced as fulfilling and meeting a person’s needs when the task aligns with the individual’s core interests and values. Since the mindful employee perceives events objectively and responsively versus reactively, the employee is well-positioned to feel a sense of self-determination when performing work tasks. Freed from automatic thought patterns, the employee observes the situation and then responds in a manner consistent with their values. This dynamic links mindfulness to job satisfaction (Hülsheger et al., 2013).