“Are you able to listen, really listen with total attention because there’s no mind-chatter or holding what you are going to say” (Gontang, 2021)? Mindfulness is the ability to live in the moment, stay present, focusing on what is at hand and not on your impressions of the moment. Can mindfulness better the modern workplace? How does it help leaders and how can it be developed?
What is mindfulness?
Arete Coach reviewed mindfulness in their insight article titled “Mindfulness and the Mindful Coach.” Jon Kabat-Zinn states that mindfulness is “Intentionally focusing attention on moment-to-moment experience without being swept up by judgments or preconceived ideas and expectations.” (Gontang, 2021). Mindful individuals focus on the moments at hand and are not controlled by their emotional reactions. The University of Minnesota identifies three traits that are closely related to mindfulness. First, mindful individuals have the “intention to cultivate awareness.” Secondly, mindful individuals give “attention to what is occurring in the present moment.” They are “simply observing” and living in the moment. Lastly, their “attitude” is “non-judgmental, curious, and kind.” (Delagran & Haley, n.d.). Mindfulness inspires living in the moment, looking at the situation factually, not being ruled by emotional reactions, and a kind curiosity that drives a desire to understand.
Mindfulness in the workplace
By embracing mindfulness, employees and business leaders alike can decrease their tendency to be distracted. Research shows that compared to those without mindfulness meditation training, those with mindfulness meditation training have a greater attention span (Kerr et al., 2011). This can also increase their levels of productivity. Research also shows that mindfulness training also directly increases productivity (Kersemaekers et al., 2018). Employees and leaders with mindfulness training are less distracted and more productive.
Research shows that after mindfulness interventions were introduced to employees, the reported levels of stress decreased significantly (Kersemaekers et al., 2018). Mindful employees are able to focus on each task as it comes. They are not overwhelmed by stress but learn to accept it as a signal for things that need to be done.
When employees go through mindfulness interventions, there is a decrease in employee burnout (Kersemaekers et al., 2018). Employee burnout is a costly expense to companies worldwide. “The average cost-per-hire is $4,129” according to the society of human resource management (2016). Employees who are more mindful of their current situation, emotions, and goals are less likely to experience burnout and look for new employment opportunities.
Mindfulness in the virtual workplace
While many of the characteristics of mindful employees in the workplace can be applied to the virtual workplace, it is beneficial to address the potential benefits of mindfulness specifically to virtual employees.
Pro-social online behavior
Research that studied the online behavior of Chinese undergraduate students found that mindfulness was associated with online prosocial behavior. They define online prosocial behavior as “behavior performed voluntarily to help others online without expectation of any reward” (Lv et al., 2021). When virtual employees are more mindful, they are more likely to associate with others better and help solve difficulties together.
Less virtual retaliation
From comment sections to misinterpreted emails, conflict still happens in the virtual workplace. Research also shows that those who are more mindful are less likely to retaliate to online violence or aggression (DeSteno et al., 2017). This characteristic is very valuable to organizations as a whole. It reduces the need for corrective action from human resource departments and supports the goal of having a peaceful and functional workplace. Virtual employees who are mindful respond in more empathetic and peaceful ways to virtual conflict.
The main takeaway
Both business leaders and employees can benefit from the development of mindfulness. Mindful individuals are less distracted, more productive, less stressed, and less likely to experience employment burnout. For virtual employees specifically, if they are mindful, they are more likely to help each other and refrain from aggression during online conflicts or misunderstandings. These findings validate the importance of mindfulness in training.
Delagran, L., & Haley, A. (n.d.). What Is Mindfulness? Retrieved from https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/what-mindfulness#:~:text=In general, they seek to,-judgmental, curious, and kind
Desteno, D., Lim, D., Duong, F., & Condon, P. (2017). Meditation Inhibits Aggressive Responses to Provocations. Mindfulness, 9(4), 1117-1122. doi:10.1007/s12671-017-0847-2
Gontang, O. (2021, June 25). Mindfulness and the Mindful Coach. Retrieved from https://www.aretecoach.io/post/mindfulness-and-the-mindful-coach
Kerr, C. E., Jones, S. R., Wan, Q., Pritchett, D. L., Wasserman, R. H., Wexler, A., . . . Moore, C. I. (2011). Effects of mindfulness meditation training on anticipatory alpha modulation in primary somatosensory cortex. Brain Research Bulletin, 85(3-4), 96-103. doi:10.1016/j.brainresbull.2011.03.026
Kersemaekers, W., Rupprecht, S., Wittmann, M., Tamdjidi, C., Falke, P., Donders, R., . . . Kohls, N. (2018). A Workplace Mindfulness Intervention May Be Associated With Improved Psychological Well-Being and Productivity. A Preliminary Field Study in a Company Setting. Frontiers in Psychology, 9. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00195
Kresser, C. (2016, June 21). How Distraction Is Rewiring Our Brains and How Mindfulness Can Help. Retrieved from https://chriskresser.com/how-distraction-is-rewiring-our-brains-and-how-mindfulness-can-help/
Lv, Y., Qiao, X., Leng, J., Zheng, Y., & Guo, Q. (2021). Mindfulness Promotes Online Prosocial Behavior via Cognitive Empathy. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(13), 7017. doi:10.3390/ijerph18137017
SHRM. (2017, May 19). Average Cost-per-Hire for Companies Is $4,129, SHRM Survey Finds. Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/about-shrm/press-room/press-releases/pages/human-capital-benchmarking-report.aspx