The STEM 1.0 Corporate Program Home Page

KEY POINTS:

1. The benefits of mindfulness training can be put into three main categories: 1) performance, 2) wellbeing, and 3) relationships.

2. Mindfulness impacts performance at work largely through improving focus and concentration. Mindfulness also improves how fast we can think, what we can hold in our memory, and enables us to be more creative when we’re making decisions and strategizing.

3. When it comes to improving wellbeing, mindfulness is incredibly effective at reducing stress and burnout, and boosting how happy we feel. Mindfulness is also related to higher levels of work-life balance, greater job satisfaction, lower turnover intentions, and less absenteeism.

4. Mindfulness trains our ability to control our behaviour and cultivates our ability to empathize with another person’s humanity. Research has found that mindfulness is related to greater marital satisfaction, and the quality of relationships between leaders and their employees.

By Dr. Ellen Choi

Following the likes of empowerment, and innovation, mindfulness has become the latest management buzzword.  Mindfulness, or present moment awareness with a non-judgmental and open quality, has been turning the heads of executives, politicians, Olympians, students, and even the US military. So, what is all the fuss about? A recent article published in the Journal of Management typified the benefits of mindfulness training into three main categories: 1) performance, 2) wellbeing, and 3) relationships.

1) Performance

Mindfulness impacts performance at work largely through improving attention by training two main skills, focus and concentration.  Focus allows us to choose where we place our attention, and concentration allows us to decide how long we can hold our attention on the desired task.

In a world of interruptions, competing priorities, and distractions this has powerful implications on how efficient we are at work.  Mindfulness training improves how fast we can think, what we can hold in our memory, and enables us to be more creative when we’re making decisions and strategizing.

Research has even found that mindfulness leads to fewer errors - not surprising when you think about what we’re capable of when we’re actually paying attention, and also better performance under pressure because mindfulness helps us manage stress and focus on what’s most important. 

With so many practical applications, it’s not surprising that professional athletes to elementary school students have been paying attention to mindfulness.
 
2) Wellbeing

A good portion of the workforce is stressed out, tired, and overwhelmed.  It should be exciting to know that there is something we can do about this.  When it comes to improving wellbeing, mindfulness practices seem to be incredibly effective at reducing stress and burnout, and boosting how happy we feel. 

There are over three decades of research that have produced findings supporting these kinds of effects. Many of these studies are based on an 8-week course called Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction.  This program was created by Jon Kabat-Zinn, a man who trained with zen masters in the east and who also holds a PhD from MIT, one of the world’s most prestigious universities. Today, studies have been conducted on some of the most stressful professions like police, military personnel, professional athletes, healthcare workers, MBA students, and even elementary school teachers.

For many different professions, mindfulness training helps people become more aware of themselves so that they can manage their thoughts and feelings in a way that reduces stress.  Some researchers have suggested that since mindfulness training reduces the tendency to ruminate and increases our ability to regulate emotions, we may feel happier and more satisfied with life as a result. Just think how much happier we would feel if we didn’t snap at our kids or if we could stop thinking about what that guy at work said to us. Mindfulness is also related to higher levels of work-life balance, greater job satisfaction, lower turnover intentions, and less absenteeism.

3) Relationships

The third category of benefits is relationships. How many times have you felt frustrated when you’re talking to someone and you can tell they’re not listening, or worse, when they keep looking at their phone?  If we’re honest with ourselves, think of how many times we have been talking on the phone while multi-tasking because we know the person we’re speaking with can’t see us?  And these situations only refer to interactions when we’re not present. 

Remember, mindfulness refers to present-moment, non-judgmental awareness.  How much would our relationships be enriched if we were able to apply non-judgmental awareness to our colleagues when they show up late to work, or to our spouse when they insist they need help with the children? 

Mindfulness has the potential to deeply influence how we interact with others because it trains our ability to control our behaviour - like choosing to pay full attention to your spouse/partner when they call even if we are busy at work. It also cultivates our ability to empathize with another person’s humanity by suspending judgement and stepping into their world to feel what they feel. 

Empirically, research has found that mindfulness is related to greater marital satisfaction, and the quality of relationships between leaders and their employees. Our brains are wired for social connections - so much so that the quality of our relationships can actually predict how long we live.  The fact that mindfulness benefits relationships is perhaps the most important benefit of all.

Today's Power Up: Begin or renew your mindfulness practice

1. PICK A TIME OF DAY WHERE YOU CAN CONSISTENTLY COMMIT TO PRACTICING.

2. THEN, START WITH JUST ONE BREATH.

IF IT’S IN THE MORNING WHEN YOU WAKE UP, BEFORE YOU GRAB YOUR PHONE OR RUN TO THE WASHROOM, JUST PAUSE AND PAY ATTENTION TO ONE INHALE AND ONE EXHALE.

IF YOUR MINDFULNESS PRACTICE IS AFTER LUNCH, THEN SET ASIDE TIME FOR JUST ONE INTENTIONAL BREATH BEFORE YOU RACE ON WITH YOUR DAY.

3. JUST TAKE ONE BREATH, STAY IN THE MOMENT, AND THEN ADD ANOTHER BREATH. SEE IF YOU CAN GET TO 10 BREATHS WHERE YOU ARE 100% PRESENT.

4. AS YOU FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE, START EXTENDING YOUR PRACTICE LONGER AND LONGER. 20-MINUTES IS A GREAT AMOUNT OF TIME BECAUSE SOMETIMES IT CAN TAKE 10-MINUTES FOR THE MIND TO SETTLE DOWN IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Dive Deeper: All about mindfulness and meditation with Dr. Ellen Choi on the Be Better Podcast.

Ellen is an expert in the effects of mindfulness in the workplace. She is delighted to be in her final year of her doctorate at the Ivey School of Business after completing a masters degree in social psychology at the London School of Economics. Presently she is studying how mindfulness training impacts such outcomes as performance, creativity, will power, and envy. Overall, Ellen is fascinated by the ability of mindfulness training to help individuals fulfill their potential in a more efficient and more self-compassionate manner.

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

Subscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS