HR Management & Compliance, Learning & Development

Help Employees Improve Focus, Reduce Stress with Mindfulness

The world is filled with noise, both literal and metaphorical, and there are times when everyday distractions make it difficult or impossible to focus on the task at hand. Consider that, on average, employees check their e-mail 36 times an hour and spend 2 hours each day just recovering from distractions. For many, those disruptions cause stress, which may lead to headaches, fatigue, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and social withdrawal.

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Employers will never be able to eliminate workday noise on behalf of their workers, but many have discovered the value of mindfulness for improving focus. Mindfulness helps employees combat distractions by teaching them to understand their feelings in the moment. That allows them to change their relationship with distractions and focus attention where it’s most valuable, thereby increasing capability and reducing stress.

There are many paths to mindfulness. Even just turning off pop-ups and push notifications can remove significant sources of distraction. For more thorough implementation of mindfulness practices, however, employers may consider offering resources designed to help employees reclaim their time from autopilot. Here are a few considerations employers can follow to introduce mindfulness instruction for their employees.

Consistency Trumps Duration

Just as regular piano practice builds a musician’s skills, mindfulness has benefits that compound over time. With enough repetition, mindfulness can even change the structure of our brains to reduce stress, boost resiliency, and increase empathy.

That doesn’t mean employers have to schedule an hour each day for mindfulness exercises, but they should encourage employees to make mindfulness part of their daily routine. To do that, provide mindfulness content that engages the broadest-possible group of employees. Offer classes at a variety of lengths to fit employees’ needs and schedules, and make sure content is engaging enough that employees want to return for additional sessions.

Open Employees’ Minds

Mindfulness can benefit individuals of any age and background, but getting employees to participate may require overcoming some misconceptions. Mindfulness isn’t about sitting in a quiet room with incense burning. It’s about finding ways to maximize performance no matter the circumstances.

Help employees understand the benefits of mindfulness by introducing exercises into daily activities. Consider leaving time for mindfulness at the end of staff meetings or encouraging employees to take mindfulness breaks at their desks. Include mindfulness instruction, and share success stories in company newsletters and other internal communications. Or, consider creating mindfulness-based challenges centered on specific events, like World Mental Health Day on October 10 or Mental Health Month in May.

By providing mindfulness content that works for a variety of situations, employers can help employees build habits that will benefit them in all aspects of their lives.

Forge a Variety of Paths

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to mindfulness. Gathering as a group—either in person or over a video call—may be perfect for some employees, while others may become distracted or self-conscious in a social setting. Some will respond to quick breaks, while others will require more time to focus. It’s important to understand this and address employee needs by offering mindfulness resources they can use in the ways that best fit their individual needs. 

Effective implementation of mindfulness activities can have a significant impact on company culture and the corporate bottom line. Consider insurance company Aetna, where employees who took mindfulness or yoga classes reported a 28% reduction in stress levels, a 20% improvement in sleep quality, and a 19% reduction in pain. They also gained more than an hour each week in productivity. Those are significant changes that point to the value of helping employees improve their mindfulness.

Mindfulness will not eliminate workday distractions, but by helping employees turn down the noise, employers can reduce stress, improve productivity, and create a more tranquil workplace.

Chance York is a mindfulness instructor for Wellbeats, a content and software-as-a-service company that delivers on-demand, virtual fitness programming for corporate wellness programs.