Mindfulness Benefits in the Workplace
Research demonstrates that mindfulness has numerous benefits in the workplace, including: strengthened concentration, increased empathy, reduced stress and anxiety, heightened listening and observational skills, and enhanced innovation and problem-solving capacity. In the Journal of Management article, “Contemplating Mindfulness at Work: an Integrative Review” (Good, Lyddy, et al., 2016), researchers identified performance, relationships, and well-being as three central areas of outcomes in the workplace positively impacted by mindfulness practice.
Performance – Empirical evidence suggests that mindfulness improves performance by strengthening the practitioner’s control and stability of attention to task-specific information, (Good & Lyddy, 2015). As such, mindfulness skills may reduce errors from fewer and shorter lapses in attention (Smallwood & Schooler, 2015). Studies also suggest that the practice of mindfulness allows the practitioner to better disengage from interrupting events and better sustain engagement with the primary task at hand, reducing lost productivity from interruptions. Mindfulness may also support less reactivity to and quicker recovery from emotional stressors that inhibit performance, (Kirk, Downar, and Montague, 2011). Increased innovation is another product of mindfulness that positively influences performance, as the practitioner develops increased capacity for considering different perspectives in problem-solving.
Relationships – Workplace relationships may be improved by mindfulness practice (Good, Lyddy, et al., 2016). Findings suggest that as a result of mindfulness practice, practitioners tend to experience:
- Improved communication quality and attention to others
- Reduced emotional reactivity, hostility (Saavedra et al., 2010), anger (Wachs & Cordova, 2007), and conflict
- Enhanced self-regulation in the face of adversity or injustice, leading to reduced rumination, negative emotion, and retaliation (Long & Christian, 2015)
- Increased positive emotional tone and expression of compassion and empathy (Dekeyser, Raes, Leijssen, Leysen, & Dewulf, 2008)
Regarding leadership, mindfulness among leaders is positively associated with employees’ sense of work-life balance, job satisfaction, and job performance, while negatively associated with employee exhaustion and deviance (Reb et al., 2014). Mindfulness among supervisors is found to equip supervisors with greater self-regulatory capacity and to reduce the frequency of hostility expressed as abuse toward subordinates. Research by Quaglia, Goodman, and Brown (in press) also suggests that leaders practicing mindfulness may be more perceptive to employees’ nonverbal communication and emotional states as a result of their greater attention control. This heightened awareness provides managers with more information to respond to the differences and needs among employees.
Regarding teamwork, mindfulness practice has been shown to increase group cohesion and collective performance (Cleirigh & Greaney, 2014). Studies show that mindfulness can improve active listening skills, greater collaboration, greater respect among team members (Singh, Singh, Sabaawi, Myers, and Wahler, 2006), and better conflict management (Barnes et al., 2007). Additionally, mindfulness practice helps the practitioner to become less ego-centric and more compassionate, which aids teamwork. Studies of mindfulness practice show increased ability to consider different perspectives (Krasner et al., 2009), which can also help to resolve team conflicts and has been found to aid negotiations (Galinsky, Maddux, Gilin, & White, 2008). Further, there is evidence that mindfulness practitioners are able to process events and occurrences in a less self-oriented or egocentric manner, allowing them greater capacity to show care for others and attend to interpersonal concerns rather than self-concerns (Good, Lyddy, et al., 2016).
Regarding workplace climate, mindfulness can make an important contribution to psychological safety. Psychological safety is the degree of trust shared in work team relationships, and it can be enhanced by a culture of mindfulness practice when high-quality relationships are established as a result of openness to new ideas, resilience to setbacks, and greater emotional balance (Dutton & Heaphy, 2003). Also, mindful leadership has been found to promote nonjudgmental interactions with employees, which may enhance the quality of trust in relationships (Mayer, Davis, & Schoorman, 1995). The established trust critical to psychological safety allows space for free expression of ideas, error correction, and learning (Edmondson, 1999), which in turn aids teamwork, efficiency, and innovation.
Well-Being – Employee well-being encompasses psychological, physical, and behavioral states. As defined by Grant, Christianson, & Price, (2007: 52) it may be described as “the overall quality of an employee’s experience and functioning at work.” Mindfulness has been found to enhance well-being in the workplace, and well-being is linked to an array of employee and organizational benefits, including:
- Increase in job satisfaction (Hülsheger et al., 2013)
- Improvement in job performance (Danna & Griffin, 1999)
- Improved sleep quality (Hülsheger et al., 2014)
- This array of benefits to mindfulness practitioners in the workplace presents a path towards enhanced health, well-being, relationships, productivity and innovation. Next, we’ll consider the potential of mindfulness practice to advance equity, diversity and inclusion in organizational development.
- Improvement in physical and psychological health (Danna & Griffin, 1999)
- Increase in psychological capital and resilience across a variety of occupations (Roche et al., 2014)
- Reduction of negative moods (Roche, Haar, & Luthans, 2014)
- Reduction of perceived stress (Roeser et al., 2013), and burnout (Flook, Goldberg, Pinger, Bonus, & Davidson, 2013; Krasner et al., 2009)
- Reduction of physiological reactivity and psychological stress in response to stressful external events, such as layoffs and aggressive behavior in office politics (Bishop et al., 2004)
This array of benefits to mindfulness practitioners in the workplace presents a path towards enhanced health, well-being, relationships, productivity and innovation. Next, we’ll consider the potential of mindfulness practice to advance equity, diversity and inclusion in organizational development.