Though mindfulness practitioners can see great impact personally and professionally in recharging and regaining productivity, employers are not easily convinced that investing in reflection, openness, and thoughtfulness will impact the bottom line. Encouraging employees to slow down to focus on the present can seem at odds with a corporate culture of speed and goal attainment. Yet this is actually what makes mindfulness valuable in an organizational context. Studies by the National Institute of Health UK, the University of Massachusetts, and the Mind/Body Medical Institute at Harvard University suggest that mindfulness at work is good for business.
The studies found that practicing mindfulness at work:
- Reduces employee absenteeism and turnover;
- Improves cognitive functions (i.e., concentration, memory, and learning ability);
- Increases employee productivity;
- Enhances employer/employee and client relationships, and;
- Improves job satisfaction
Mindfulness also helps nurture imagination and improves mental health, according to Manfred Ke De Vries, INSEAD distinguished professor of leadership and development. People who practice mindfulness report having improved innovative thinking, better communication skills, and more appropriate reactions to stress. They also say that they are better able to handle conflict at work and experience improved teamwork and team relations. In addition, research by Jochen Reb, an associate professor of organizational development at Singapore Management University, found that mindfulness can also improve decision-making by helping clarify objectives and generating options.
Mindfulness can help all employees, but it can be particularly beneficial for senior leaders. William George, former chief executive of healthcare giant Medtronic, said in an article in FT Magazine: “The main business case for (mindfulness) is that if you’re fully present on the job, you will be a more effective leader, you will make better decisions, and you will work better with other people.”.
To help frame mindfulness, particularly when it comes to making better decisions, consider its opposite; mindlessness. Mindlessness means not taking the time or effort to think. Mindless decision makers don’t take the time to think about new and different options, relying instead on past assumptions or experiences. Mindful decision makers, on the other hand, take the time to consider all of the attributes of the different options, making more informed, current decisions.
Mindfulness can also help senior leaders improve their focus on their mindsets, emotional states, and how those two affect how they interact with others. Intentional, long-term focus helps improve leaders’ flexibility and adaptability. It also helps them move beyond their familiar ways of thinking and seeing the world and become open to new ways of listening, leading, responding, and innovating.
To learn more about mindfulness, download a copy of the UNC Executive Development white paper titled, Bringing Mindfulness to the Workplace.