A study from the University of Miami shows mindfulness training can help lengthen attention spans and increase focus at work. The university took two groups of undergraduate students and used a seven-week mental training program, then tested the groups at the end of the semester. Those who had not been trained showed diminished attention and increased mind wandering, the researchers reported.
Though the study was conducted in a learning environment, there are ways its findings can also be applied to the workforce. And its application may well be needed, if research from Steelcase is correct: the company claims North American workers lose 86 minutes per work day to distraction.
We compiled ideas to incorporate a culture of mindfulness in the office:
Consider design aspects
Environmental psychologist Beatriz Arantes recommended offering employees a variety of spaces to choose from at work. “Given the mental fatigue that comes with high cognitive load, workers need physical spaces that help them manage the cognitive load and be fully present in the moment,” she said.
At the University of Washington, staff members established a weekly social group to help people remember to meditate and take care of their minds. It’s called a ‘Mindfulness Sangha’, derived from a Pali word meaning community.
Reframe the way mindfulness training is branded
The ideas of meditation and its connotations with hippies or Eastern philosophy may not appeal to everyone. Nor will the idea of reducing stress – especially in cultures where excessive work is put on a pedestal. At Google, mindfulness training was introduced as part of a stress reduction course, and participation was low because people felt that their stress was a badge of honor. In response, the company shifted the branding of the training so that people perceived it as a way to enhance their emotional intelligence, and participation leaped.
It helps with pain relief, mental health, and even alleviates symptoms of cancer – and mindfulness is also becoming a major player in the workplace.