Mindfulness At Work: HR Can Help Staff Cope with Demanding Workplaces


Advances in AIOpens a new window , machine learningOpens a new window and automationOpens a new window , to name a few, are set to revolutionize HR operations across industries. Consequently, strategies and trends designed to support another key but often forgotten business aspect – human capital – are generally overshadowed.

While these types of HR tech promise to improve overall HR operations, many companies are nevertheless facing productivity crises as a result of high levels of stress across their business, leading to reduced performance and a deterioration of workers’ quality of life.

Considering that six out of 10 US employees admit their work-related stress levels have shot up in the last five years, HR departments have increasingly started to look for tactics and even external services that can help to mitigate this key issue.

Enter mindfulness.

As a result of a growing awareness of the importance of mental health and well-being in the workplace, we have begun to see a shift away from employers’ traditional response to helping their staff manage fast-paced and stressful work environments. A realm that used to be dominated by the offer of tactical skill-building trainings, especially time management courses, is now moving towards helping workers to develop techniques that specifically manage stress rather than workloads.

Some of the world’s largest companies are introducing mindfulness in the services and perks they provide for employees.

While Google offers various related courses such as “search inside yourself,” “neural self-hacking” and “managing your energy,” eBay has installed fully-furnished meditation rooms in its buildings. Many other Fortune 500 companies have also incorporated mindfulness approaches, including General Mills, Goldman Sachs, Barclays, JP Morgan, Apple and Nike.

Meanwhile, business schools are even introducing mindfulness classes as they look to shape self-aware and compassionate leaders. This growing popularity of bringing mindfulness into the workplace is why, for instance, the meditation app HeadspaceOpens a new window is expecting to double its corporate clients by the end of the year.

What is mindfulness in the workplace

A buzzword picking up steam among workplace thought leaders and progressive HR managers and professionals, “mindfulness” goes deeper than just offering staff yoga and meditation classes.

In a work context, it is an approach to balancing work and time in a way that allows the mind to focus on one task at a time, and which helps people to understand the full implications of their actions and decisions.

Simply put, mindfulness – at its core – is about awareness and concentrating on the moment.

Although some business leaders may dismiss it as “hippy mumbo jumbo,” mindfulness is, in fact, a thoroughly researched set of tools and techniques designed to enhance mental effectiveness; it has been scientifically proved to reduce depression, anxiety and stress.

For example, after it introduced employees to mindfulness, Transport for London – the UK body responsible for Greater London’s transport system – reported that stress, anxiety and depression-related absence fell by a whopping 71%.

Business benefits of mindfulness

While advocates will argue that it can help every aspect of business, sceptics will point out that there is little evidence of direct business gain. Admittedly, most studies on the subject so far have been unable to confirm any real ROI.

Ultimately, though, when applied successfully in an office, mindfulness can improve employee well-being and support staff to be better at their jobs.

While there may not yet be any proof of direct bottom-line benefits, it can for a fact help to prevent burnout, promote job satisfaction and facilitate better performance. Studies have found that it can enhance overall focus, attention to detail, clarity, creativity, communication and teamwork – no small contributions to a company’s business operations.

Consider this: Following the adoption of mindfulness programs, workers at Aetna Opens a new window reported a 28% decrease in stress levels, a 19% reduction in pain and a 20% boost to sleep quality.

Every HR leader will agree that less stressed, healthier, more satisfied and better rested staff is only to the good.

Crucially, it also makes people more effective at their jobs by preventing multitasking, which according to scientists is a key driver of under-performance. Myriad studies have found that multitasking leads to poor critical decision-making, low productivity and results in hours of wasted time.

Moreover, mindfulness training arguably helps leaders to measure and manage their own performance by rewiring the brain – it has been found to redirect activity to the part of the brain that deals with logical processes such as judgement, decision-making, planning and impulse control.

Mndfulness can make managers calmer and more aware of their interactions with colleagues and subordinates, while also making staff more efficient in today’s fast-paced and over-stimulated workplaces.