“Always on, always connected”. In the digital age that we live in today, we’re constantly bombarded with information. Our attention is pulled in every direction. From the moment we wake up until the time we go to bed, we spend our days racing around trying in an attempt to complete everything on our to do lists.
While we may feel competent and accomplished as we plough through our tasks, the truth is that we spend a lot of our time in autopilot. Be it a work task or a conversation with a work colleague, we’re rarely present. We’re constantly distracted, thinking of the next thing to do after we’ve finished whatever we’re currently doing. No wonder so many complain of feeling tired, stressed, and overwhelmed.
In fact, when it comes to employee health and workplace wellbeing, a recent Gallup study of nearly 7,500 U.S. full-time employees found that 23% of employees reported feeling burned out at work very often or always, while an additional 44% reported feeling burned out sometimes. That means about two-thirds of full-time workers experience burnout on the job.
We’ve become so accustomed to feeling stressed and operating on autopilot that we now need to re-learn and train how to slow down, concentrate, focus, and be present. This is why the practice of mindfulness is more important and necessary than ever before.
Dictionary.com describes mindfulness as “a technique in which one focuses one’s full attention only on the present, experiencing thoughts, feelings, and sensations but not judging them”. Using slow, deep breaths, one is fully engaged and present in whatever one is doing and aware of one’s senses.
The good news is that more people are turning to mindfulness, meditation and yoga as a way to combat stress and burnout. A 2017 U.S. study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics asked participants if they’d practised meditation or yoga in the past year. 14.3 per cent said they’d practised yoga in the past year compared to 9.5 per cent in 2012 while 14.2 per cent of survey participants said they’d meditated in the past year, which is a huge increase from just 4.1 per cent in 2012.
Mindfulness at Work
So, why should companies care about mindfulness? In two words - employee wellbeing. Introducing mindfulness or yoga practice at the work has countless benefits including increased employee engagement, a reduction in stress, increased focus, sharper decision making, and happier employees.
On the connection between mindfulness, emotional intelligence and happiness in the workplace, an Inc. article states that, “each of these relate to engagement, which in turn relates to purpose. And each can affect your business in ways you may not even recognise”.
Harvard Business Review reports that mindfulness enables us to respond rather than simply react. “When practised and applied, mindfulness fundamentally alters the operating system of the mind. Through repeated mindfulness practice, brain activity is redirected from ancient, reactionary parts of the brain, including the limbic system, to the newest, rational part of the brain, the prefrontal cortex.” Needless to say, our ability to respond instead of react benefits every part of our work life including our communication with others.
To emphasise the importance of employee health and workplace wellbeing, at the end of February, Benify offered its employees in Sweden the opportunity to take part in a scientific study between Swedish online yoga and mindfulness platform Yogobe and Karolinska Institutet.
Employees will participate in one of two Yogobe programs for four weeks. Employees are required to practice yoga or mindfulness for just 10 minutes, five times a week. Karolinska Institutet will then evaluate the information to see how the effectiveness of mindfulness at work.
So, what is your organisation doing to encourage and support employee health and wellbeing?