We’re living in an age of ultimate distraction. Throughout the day, emails, texts, Slack messages, and phone notifications interrupt our flow and demand our attention. These interruptions add up throughout the day and can have a disastrous impact on both our productivity and mindset throughout the day.
For example, say your partner sends you a text message asking what you want for dinner. That harmless, well-intentioned text can push your mind off the task at hand and onto what you plan to cook this evening, or what you may need to pick up at the store. These interruptions, while brief, can add up over the course of a workday leaving your mind reeling and your to-do list left unchecked
Unfortunately, these distractions aren’t going anywhere, so it’s up to us to train our brains to react (or not react) appropriately to spontaneous stimuli so they don’t derail our entire day. That’s where an intentional focus on mindfulness comes in.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what mindfulness at work is, why it matters, and how you can practice it to become more present in the office and at home.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present and aware of our thoughts, feelings, and actions. But in order to fully understand mindfulness, we must first consider a world without it.
Think about a scenario that elicited a reaction from you. For example, you felt an itch, so you scratched it. This 2-step process happens anytime we are impacted by an outside stimulus and looks like this:
- The stimulus occurs
- We react to the stimulus
Now, let’s consider what this might look like in the workplace. Say you’re sitting in a team meeting listening to a presentation and you feel your phone vibrate in your pocket. Impulsively, you reach into your pocket and check the notification to see if it’s something urgent. Unfortunately, the current speaker takes notice, thinks you’re disinterested in what they have to say and finds your behavior distracting at best, or disrespectful at worst.
Acting mindfully, on the other hand, adds an extra step to the above scenario. That revised process would look like this:
- The stimulus occurs
- You pause and think about what actions you can take and the consequences of their outcomes
- You react in a more mindful way and make a mental note to check your phone following the presentation.
In both scenarios, our subject wanted to take the same action (checking their phone), but in the latter, they took time to put their thoughts and feelings aside and follow the best course of action for everyone: to be present in the moment. While being mindful and fully present all the time might seem intimidating and unrealistic, it’s similar to muscle memory — it can be strengthened with practice over time. The more you practice mindfulness at work, you can become faster at fighting distractions, recognizing thoughts, and re-focusing your attention on the present task at hand.
What are the benefits of practicing mindfulness?
The most important benefit of mindfulness at work is that it can help us curb reactive behavior. Here are some other ways being more mindful and present in the office can help you:
- Resist distractions and focus on your goals
- Make better, more informed decisions
- Be more present in meetings
- Listen more deeply to what others are saying
- Act wisely during high-stress situations
- Reduce stress and resist burnout
- Be more compassionate and inclusive to others
Don’t be frustrated if you don’t see these effects right away. Practicing mindfulness at work is the process of rewiring our brains, but that takes time. Luckily, it’s a skill you can practice whenever and wherever you are just by bringing your full attention to whatever you’re doing, with a particular attitude of openness and acceptance.
4 ways to practice mindfulness at work every day
Wondering how to take a more mindful approach in the workplace or looking to teach your employees how they can refine their own mindfulness? Here are 4 mindfulness techniques you can use to pause, stay present, and be more intentional with your actions.
1. Focus on your breath
While it might be tempting to react to a stimulus immediately, you need to buy yourself time to process your emotions and decide what the best course of action is. In order to find your center, try using the box breathing technique to help clear your head and keep your head clear and focused.
Here’s how to use the box breathing exercise to practice mindfulness at work:
- Close your eyes and breathe in for 4 seconds
- Hold your breath for 4 seconds
- Slowly exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds
- Hold for 4 seconds
- Repeat that process for 3 rounds, or until you feel grounded
Once you’ve calmed down and cleared your head, you can move on to step 2.
2. Observe or “surf” your reactions
The second technique is to observe or “surf” your reactions so to speak. Instead of immediately reacting to a stimulus, view your urge to react like a wave that will peak and then recede over time. Watch the wave, or imagine yourself surfing on top of it. Your mind might be telling you to act defensively if someone gives you critical feedback and while you can listen to what your mind is saying, remember that you don’t have to act on that instinct. This is a crucial step to practicing mindfulness at work.
3. Question your reactions
Next, take a moment to reflect on your initial reactions to this stimulus. Instead of immediately reacting to a situation, ask yourself “What is my purpose for acting this way?” If your mind comes up with weak rationalizations (“a little bit won’t hurt”), feel free to argue with yourself and create a list of reasons why “a little bit” actually will hurt.
For example, maybe you have the urge to lash out at your coworker who shared critical feedback with you because you know they’re right, but it’s still difficult to hear. If you take a moment to practice mindfulness at work and consider their side, that they’re telling you this so you can grow and become a better teammate to others, you might realize you don’t need to be so defensive. The more you argue with or debate your own reactions, the more time you have to let the urge or craving pass and more mindfully react to your surroundings.
4. Show yourself compassion
Lastly, mindfulness at work does not mean beating yourself up over unwanted mental habits — after all, we all have them. Instead, mindfulness encourages you to be more open to your thoughts and feelings, without letting them dictate how you act in certain situations. By practicing mindfulness at work over time, we can recognize and anticipate our tendencies and habits without beating ourselves up over them. It can help train yourself to be more resilient so you persevere through whatever challenges come your way.
Practicing mindfulness with Hone
Mindfulness is a behavior that can be refined with practice. To help, Hone just launched two new mindfulness at work classes, “Mindfulness Fundamentals” and “Mindfulness in Action,” to help employees practice these skills and techniques in a classroom setting from anywhere in the world. To learn more about Hone’s mindfulness offerings and other employee training courses, speak to a member of our team and give your employees access to the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the modern workplace.