Mindfulness in the Workplace
The way we function in contemporary organisations is not working because employees are more stressed, anxious, burned out and disengaged than ever before. The United Nations International Labour Organization reports that work-related stress is a major epidemic worldwide with 40 to 60 percent of workers in industrialised economies experiencing moderate to high stress at work (1). Employees continue to struggle to find ways to work in contemporary always-on, global, high-stress, high-velocity work environments (2). Globally, we know that 85 percent of employees worldwide are not engaged or are actively disengaged in their job (3) (measured as the degree to which employees feel rationally and emotionally committed to their work and/or organization). One positive development that offsets this trend is the growing emphasis on mindfulness practices and in particular the 8 week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction programme.
While the challenges to create a truly thriving workplace can be high, there has been measurable impact through the introduction of mindfulness practices. We know that thriving workplaces have tangible benefits. For example, organisations that prioritise sustainable employee engagement outperform organisations with low engagement by a factor of 3x, according to global HR consultancy Towers Watson; companies on the FTSE 100 that prioritise employee well-being and engagement outperform competitors by 10 percent, according to the Workwell study conducted by the FTSE; and such companies as SAP, the German enterprise software company, save hundreds of millions in operating profit by investing in employee well-being and engagement. It clearly makes good business sense to address and invest against the deterrents of a healthy workplace.
A Commentary from Professor Michael West, Head of Thought Leadership at the King’s Fund and Professor of Organisational Psychology at Lancaster University Management School
Mindful organisation involves identifying the key problems facing the organisation and attending to them. This them enables the generation of new and improved ways of responding. In this way organisations adapts to its environment successfully.
Mindful organising is about interconnection. His research over the last 25 years shows how mindful teams, especially in pressured situations, are much more effective than other teams. Teams that take time out to reflect on what they are trying to achieve and how they are going about it and then making changes are far more productive and innovative than other teams. The power of such ‘team reflexivity’ or ‘team mindfulness’ has been demonstrated in teams around the world.
Mindfulness practice in organisations should not simply be an add on because it is unlikely this will change organisational cultures. We must aspire to create organisations that are themselves mindful so that organisations become communities that support the underlying principles on which the mindfulness movement is based – openness, authenticity, attention to difficulty, supportiveness and presence. And in this way, ensuring their effectiveness and the flourishing of those who work within them and are served by them.
“Teams are more effective and innovative to the extent that they routinely take time out to reflect upon their objectives, strategies, processes and environments and make changes accordingly”
(Schippers, West & Dawson, 2012, Journal of Management; Tannembaum & Cerasoli, 2013, Human Factors)