Several studies talk about how mindfulness reduces stress, boosts creativity, improves productivity, and increases the overall quality of an organisation. Companies have introduced mindfulness in the workplace and studied its impact on employees and on profits. Today, mindfulness is seen as more than just a stress-reduction strategy, it improves focus, awareness, cognitive performance, emotional intelligence, insight and creativity.
Why would mindfulness, corporate strategy and productivity be good partners? Mindfulness means being aware of the present moment, living consciously, paying attention and staying focused willingly. Productivity, especially in a business context, is about efficiency, continuous improvement, and a better output.
So how are these polar opposites connected? We are in a knowledge economy today and our key resources are the organisation’s leadership and its talent. Enterprise productivity is based on the output (or value created) by the leadership and employees, and the input (or time invested by resources). Simply put, organisational success equals value and time. To increase success, we either increase the value created or reduce the time required to generate value.
Mindfulness allows employees to focus time and attention in the present moment and on what matters. It develops resilient employees and organisations, where people are more inspired, happy and empowered. Happy employees keep customers satisfied by delivering value. Customers return when they receive value, just as inspired employees stay on longer with the same company.
Troubled waters make things tough
All of us today manage multiple priorities that are dynamic and volatile. Employees struggle with increased expectations and competing demands for professional and personal goals, while also handling complex, ambiguous environments. Employees are investing longer hours at work, loading themselves with technology and are always distracted. This has resulted in a fragmented and stressed way of life.
The goal of mindfulness is straightforward – calm the mind’s constant chattering and focus thoughts on what’s more important. Mindful employees learn to focus on the now and accept events in the present moment. Companies like Google, Target, and General Mills, have implemented mindfulness strategies in the office, and have found that it lowers stress and improves focus. Mindful employees can empathise and connect better with the environment, and make better decisions.
Relax and work better at the same time?
The dual objectives of attaining business goals and asking employees to relax seem at odds with each other. But mindfulness at work has been proven to reduce employee absenteeism and turnover, improve productivity by enhancing cognitive function, and consequentially improve customer satisfaction and revenue. It helps nurture imagination and improves mental health, according to Prof. Manfred Ke De Vries, Insead. He also states that mindfulness improves innovative thinking, communication skills, and balances out reactions to stress. Employees can better handle conflict at work and operate as a team.
A mindful leader combined with a smart strategy equals business success
Studies also show that mindfulness makes better leaders, who run better companies based on good organisational strategy. Successful corporate strategy is about smart leaders being aware of the options available and then selecting the best suited for their company. But our automatic behavior or reactions get in the way. Mindfulness helps leaders break automatic behavior routines and make intentional decisions. In fact, studies show that mindfulness transforms the way we think.
Mindful leaders are able to create a happier and balanced work environment. They have a heightened sense of awareness, enhanced listening ability and consider each person in a situation. Mindfulness has the potential to do away with the dysfunctional aspects of a purely outcome-based approach, and makes leaders look at experimentation, learning and innovation. In short, mindfulness can help create a more humanistic, high-performance organisational culture, which encourages learning and decision making at all levels.
Mindless frontline teams can’t deliver
Sales teams are under great pressure to bring in more revenue. They have tough targets to meet in limited time, giving them no time for creativity or innovation. Meanwhile, customer relationship managers are under duress from disgruntled customers as well as seemingly unsupportive internal teams. While mindfulness won’t prevent difficult scenarios from cropping up, it helps employees skillfully handle tough situations without letting stress cloud their judgment. It teaches individuals to keep a gap between action and reaction, which allows frontline executives to deliver more balanced, thoughtful reactions. Such employees constantly gather knowledge on how they can better serve customers or bring in new ones. Mindful salespersons are completely engaged, see more, feel more, and utilise their knowledge in a determined manner.
The final word…
Mindfulness is about developing self-awareness and the ability to self-regulate. A mindful leader is like a steady ship in turbulent waters – leading with solid ethics, believing in competencies and maintaining calmness in the face of adversity. Mindful leaders and employees foster a sense of clarity and stability, and are fully aware of what is happening around them.
Whether its employees or customers, a mindful organisation understands that humans first make choices for emotional reasons, and then look for reasons to justify these decisions. A mindful organisation is more open to emotional intelligence and the non-financial aspects of a business, allowing it to improve its people focus, and enhance productivity and customer service. A more mindful organisation will ultimately reach the Holy Grail and increase its shareholder value.
By Sharon S Andrew PhD, happiness evangelist, Happiest Minds