Big business understands the big-time benefits of mindfulness and meditation. “A lot of Fortune 500 companies have mindfulness programs embedded in their culture,” says Dr. Judy Turner, a psychologist and meditation teacher with Mindfulness Meditation Toronto who has worked with professionals ranging from emergency room doctors to lawyers. Meditation at the office is so effective that Google, Nike and Apple have set up dedicated meditation rooms in their workplaces because employees who meditate regularly are less stressed and more productive. It’s good for the workforce and the bottom line.
No matter what you do for a living or what kind of office you work in, you can employ the principles of mindfulness and meditation during your day. Schedule a 10-minute meditation in your calendar and book a boardroom or just close your office door to guarantee a few minutes of quiet. It can also be as simple as taking three deep, slow breaths every time you switch tasks, says Dr. Turner. “When you walk to somebody else’s office, that’s also a time when you can practise mindfulness.” (Constantly on-the-go? Check out our favourite apps for soothing the mind.)
Curious how to be mindful at work? Read on for the top three ways that mindfulness and meditation can boost your career.
No. 1: Enhance focus
A study from Harvard Medical School found that meditation creates changes in areas of the brain related to learning and working memory capacity. This can lead to better sustained attention on any given task, from chairing a meeting to fielding an important phone call. Think of it as levelling up, beyond the myth of multitasking, to attain a laser-like focus that can obliterate your to-do list. Being able to zero in on the work at hand can also help you look at problems in a different way, which can increase creative thinking.
No. 2: Boost productivity
“When we’re focused, we’re always more productive,” says Dr. Turner. That goes for solo tasks, group projects at the office and even staff meetings. “When everybody comes to a meeting stressed and distracted, it’s very hard to be efficient,” she says. But if everyone at the table takes a few mindful moments, a meeting can run very differently. Dr. Turner says that a real estate firm she coached recently is a good example of this: As a group, they started taking a couple of minutes at the beginning of meetings to put their phones away, settle into their chairs and take a few deep breaths to tune into the present. “For something that sounds so simple, it’s amazing what a difference it’s made.”
No. 3: Improve connections
There are several ways that regular mindfulness and meditation can help us with our work connections. It can help us feel calm and less reactive in general, which will assist on a tense call with a client. If we can keep things from getting heated, that’s always more professional and conducive to cordial working relationships. The practice of mindful listening can be an invaluable tool, too. “Being able to really give someone our full attention can be a huge advantage. It reduces miscommunication and fosters goodwill. Plus, the compassion you learn to afford yourself when practising mindfulness will naturally extend to other people in your life, including your co-workers. “It lessens our judgment of others, and work environments benefit from that,” she says.
Even try being mindful during your lunch
If you’re still nibbling on salads at your desk most days, you’re missing out on an opportunity to de-stress, recharge and enjoy your midday meal. To eat mindfully, focus on enjoying the food you’re eating as you’re eating it. That may mean removing distractions, stepping away from your desk or finding a seat outside if the weather is good, thinking only about eating your meal and observing what’s around you. “Listen to the birds, notice the leaves or flowers on the trees and feel the warmth of the sun on your face,” says Dr. Turner. “It’s really about being in the present moment as that moment is happening.” You’ll return to your desk ready to tackle the rest of your day.
Now that you’re caught up on how to be mindful at work, next learn how to practice mindfulness during your morning commute.