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the mindful workplace

We’re always busy, always at our iPhones and always stressed. Job insecurity and Brexit shadows us with uncertainty. We often take our work home to stay ahead of the game and we’re turning into a culture of workhorses, governed by the threat of redundancy; more and more we plan every minute and are proud to be multitasking. If we check our work emails on a Sunday we’re no longer surprised to receive a message or a report from a work colleague. The higher up you go, the more work saturated it becomes; the message here is that if you want to succeed you must pay by losing your free time. This tidal wave of tasks creates a work-based attention deficit trait where the workhorse can become literally “under siege”

Mindfulness as a predicator of wellbeing, psychological health and workplace productivity has been well researched and documented. Mindfulness is about your life. It isn’t about the time you meditate on a cushion or chair. It is about learning to be awake and bringing our distracted and often stressed minds back to now with a fresh quality of attention. Mindfulness is a way of paying attention – in the present moment – to yourself, others and the world around you. Derived from the Buddhist meditative traditions it is now increasingly finding its way into secular and workplace contexts. Anyone can train in mindfulness and we now know that such training literally re-sculpts your brain.

Paul Gilbert in Mindful Compassion writes about three major neurological systems, those of drive, safety and threat focused systems. Workhorses will typically perform (and underperform) under threat/drive, and their sympathetic nervous system will be chronically activated; stress, anxiety and depression are often consequential outcomes for the workhorse.

Practicing mindfulness in the workplace will help alleviate this threat/survival system. Mindfulness helps deactivate the threat system and activates the self-soothing of the parasympathetic nervous system which is associated with feelings of secure attachment, safeness, and the bonding neurochemical oxytocin. The best workers are those who practice mindfulness in the workplace, taking pauses to both reflect on their work and become more grounded and resilient.

Google were so impressed by the connection between mindfulness and a nourishing workplace that they created their own mindfulness programme called “Search Inside Yourself”  ( . By September 2009 over two hundred people had gone through the programme, becoming more mindful, more connected less stressed and better communicators.

Michael Chaskalson ( ) found that

  • Mindfulness training increases concentration
  • Workers who practice mindfulness make more rational decisions
  • Mindfulness training can reduce burnout
  • Mindfulness training can raise the level of emotional intelligence
  • A more mindful workplace actually increases productivity

The good news is that you can bring mindfulness into your workplace without adding any more demands on your already too-packed schedule. I like to call these moments Mindful Pauses. It isn’t just about stopping; it is about noticing what’s happening both outside and inside you while it’s happening; thus you are to bring a more mindful awareness into the workplace and to your tasks at hand.

This is attention training; and these mindful pauses allow you to step off the daily treadmill and perhaps find some spaciousness in the day to make more conscious choices, bring more resilience into your day.

Mindful Pauses

With each Mindful Pause, practice noticing when the attention drifts and redirect it back to where you are now.

  1. Decide how you start your day rather than letting the day start you—begin each new day by noticing the sensations of the breath for a few breaths before jumping out of bed.
  2. Use your journey wisely—choose some days to drive to and from work without the radio or phone. When you arrive at your destination, allow yourself a few moments to sit in the car, mindfully noticing your breath.
  3. Nourish yourself—mindfully eat your lunch; take time out.
  4. Walk between meetings –feeling your feet on the floor, the air on your skin, grounding yourself between tasks or meetings
  5. Sit upright, raising your spine at your desk while your computer is turning on, noticing the sensations in the body as you sit.

See also a guide for the superbusy at

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