What Is Mindfulness and Why Is It Critical In The Remote Workplace?

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The rise of remote working means that we can work from anywhere. But the challenges presented by this new style of working puts us face to face with another location-based issue: where in the world are our minds? Employees are being subjected to longer working hours because of disorganized work schedules. Add to that heightened levels of anxiety that can be tagged to lack of boundaries and social connections. We’re noticing shocking levels of loneliness and depression amongst employees and teams across the globe. As the concern for the emotional and psychological wellbeing in the workplace increases, we’re seeing an increased focus on mindfulness. So, what the heck is this magical tool, and why do you keep hearing about it so much? Mindfulness is the act of being consciously aware of something, in the present moment. Its benefits are grounded in some pretty solid science, and touted by everyone from the jet setting CEO to merry Marv in the mailroom. And now that remote work is taking the world by storm, we’re seeing how it can counteract the negative effects location-independent work can have on one’s soul. Let’s take a deep dive into the culture of mindfulness, where it comes from, and how you can bring more mindfulness into your work routine.

What is mindfulness in the workplace?

Mindfulness is rooted in ancient East Asian philosophy and dates back to the beginning of Buddhism and Taoism. It encompasses a set of tools and strategies that encourages a healthy mental state by training the mind to pay attention to the here and now.

To be mindful is to focus purposely on the present moment, place and task at hand. According to Rachel Walla, CSP at Ally Safety, though mindfulness is a simple concept, it has become increasingly difficult to implement because of the many distractions in today’s remote workplaces. To support this, a Microsoft study showed that people lose concentration after eight seconds of focusing on an image, audio or body of text. Being mindful helps us anchor our attention in the now.

Working remotely sounds attractive; however, it adds a whole new element to your role. It can be overwhelming to be punctual, responsible and productive — without anyone breathing down your neck (yes, it can actually be more stressful to have to self-manage!). This is why mindfulness is critical in the workplace to ensure you leave your desk with a smile instead of a frown.

Benefits of workplace mindfulness

When we pay attention to the things we do in the present moment and what is happening around us without judgment, we become more confident, motivated and less stressed—even in the face of mega challenges. This is because, rather than allowing stress to overtake our bodies, mindfulness allows us to see problems rationally and make better decisions.

Neuroplasticity research conducted on brain scans by neuroscientist Richard J. Davidson, Ph.D., shows that our brains are constantly changing and adapting to internal and external stimuli. Daily experiences can shape our brains without our knowledge or input. When we allow this to happen, our brains can fall victim to negative self-talk and distractions. Dr. Davidson demonstrated that nearly 50% of the time, adults do not pay attention to what they are doing, which leads to rumination. He concluded that “a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.”

Contemporary neuroscience has demonstrated the importance of mindfulness in the workplace to enhance progress and create harmony. Among the benefits of implementing mindfulness, we find:

  • Higher levels of self-awareness and confidence 
  • Better memory, concentration, and decision-making skills
  • Reduced levels of anxiety, emotional exhaustion and depression
  • Empathy, kindness and compassion in the workplace, and more tolerance toward diversity
  • Better interpersonal relationships and more productive teamwork
  • New ideas and solutions to problems
  • Resilience before challenges; adaptability and persistence before changes.
  • Less stressed and more motivated employees

Another study conducted by Harvard radiologist Gaelle Desbordes on MRIs of brains before and after mindfulness exercises, confirmed that the brain’s networks can be reorganised in depressed patients after they learn mindful meditation.

Achieving a flow state in four easy steps

To achieve a flow state is to get into the zone and be fully immersed in your task. Once achieved, you stop feeling like you’re dragging yourself through your day, just waiting for it to end. Four pillars can help us achieve a flow state. They are as follows:

  1. Awareness and meta-awareness. Become purposely aware of the task you are performing at the present moment and pay attention to your thoughts. Do this by checking in with each sense — what can you see in front of you? What can you hear? What can you feel? This will help anchor you in the here and now.
  2. Connection. By nourishing harmonious relationships and cultivating empathy, you can achieve more productivity and mindful teamwork. Set a weekly time to connect as a group, take a daily mindfulness break together, and try to be more empathetic with your co-workers; all this will boost your social connections.
  3. Insight. Be aware of your self talk and change the narrative to a more positive one. Being more forgiving and appreciative of yourself will increase your self-confidence and pave the way to a clearer mental state.
  4. Purpose. Determine your purpose in life and establish a clear vision of what you want to achieve. What do you love to do most? By shifting your perception of what you do, you will discover even more enjoyment and fulfillment in your role.

Consider implementing mindfulness in your daily work routine. It will help you to become more motivated, productive, committed, and happy, all the while achieving your goals. 

After all, mindset is everything. At home. In the workplace. And particularly in the home workplace.