Mindfulness: A Guide for Occupational Health and Safety Professionals

Mindfulness in the workplace has become a popular way for organisations to help their employees relieve stress and anxiety. Practising mindfulness can assist employees to cope with everyday life and deal with difficult situations. It can also help in improving concentration, relaxation and productivity.

Research has also demonstrated that practising mindfulness can assist employees to take a preemptive approach to manage their mental health, emotions and stress in the workplace.

If you still aren’t aware of the positive effects of mindfulness in the workplace, we’ll discuss what mindfulness is and the steps you can take to introduce it in your workplace.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is defined as a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations.

Often it is easier to understand mindfulness in terms of what it isn’t; for example, that awkward moment you forgot a new colleague’s name the instant they told you, or when you are ‘listening’ to someone while also completing a task at the same time.

Mindfulness is learning to focus on the present as it happens, to stop and pause before you react. This self-regulation can also lead to better focus at work, cooperation with others, self-awareness and self-control.

The benefits of mindfulness for your organisation

  • Decreased presenteeism and absenteeism
  • Increased retention of skilled staff
  • A positive, creative working environment
  • Helping employees with existing mental health conditions
  • Encourages employee engagement

The benefits of mindfulness for your team

  • Greater attention and productivity
  • Stress management skills and anxiety reduction
  • More focused at work
  • Increased resilience
  • Stronger performance
  • Increased positive emotion, life satisfaction and self-esteem beyond the workplace

Let’s practice!

Here are three quick introductory mindfulness exercises for you and your employees to try:

1. Focus: Find an object and try to remain focused on just that object for as long as possible. Note when your mind starts to wander and bring it back to the object. The longer you can remain focused, the more your mindfulness will increase.

2. Technical Reminders: Harness your ever-present devices to become ‘mindfulness reminders’. When you hear the ring of an incoming call or bleep of a new notification, use it to remind you to be fully present in the now. Before you answer or respond, stop and take a deep breath.

3. Oh stop it: Teach employees to use the STOP sign technique whenever they feel stressed:

  • Stop what you are doing
  • Take five deep breaths
  • Observe your body and notice what you are thinking about
  • Proceed.

Maintain the Balance

Consider encouraging your employees to practise mindfulness on the commute to and from work, to give over-loaded brains a break. Something as simple as spending a moment looking at the landscape outside the train window, instead of checking emails or ‘wow-ing’ that photo on Facebook, could be the quick refresh everyone needs.

With regular practice of mindfulness exercises, both you and your employees can learn to focus on the present moment, smash that to-do list and deal with life’s challenges with a clear and calm mind.

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References:
1. Eberth, J., & Sedlmeier, P. (2012). The effects of mindfulness meditation: a meta-analysis. Mindfulness, 3(3), 174-189.

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