As companies grow and expand, employees and managers find themselves with more
tasks accumulating in the workplace. Though technology has seen several important advancements in task management in recent years, the majority of workers and even executives are finding their multitasking capabilities taxed like never before.
While you may not be able to reduce the amount of work you and your employees have to handle, it is possible to help reduce multitasking stress and refocus staff by putting an emphasis on encouraging mindfulness.
Workplace focus is coming under fire
One of the biggest challenges creeping into workplaces today is increased levels of distraction among employees. A recent study from Harvard aimed at measuring distraction in employees found that respondents indicated that they were distracted on the job roughly 50 percent of the time, as determined by a questionnaire comparing what respondents were doing with what they were thinking about at the time of the survey. More surprisingly were the results revealed that the highest degree of mind-wandering took place while people were sitting at computers working.
Human Resource Executive Online reported on two specific circumstances under which performance tends to suffer the most. When employees are not engaged enough, they are more prone to losing focus. On the other end of the spectrum, when workers find themselves bogged down with too much work, this too can lead to a type of disengagement as a result of being overstressed. This latter type of stress can be particularly damaging to businesses. The World Health Organization estimated that each year U.S. businesses lose roughly $300 billion due to stress-related concerns, a figure which includes loss of productivity, mental health issues, and chronic health concerns such as hypertension.
Recently, workplaces have begun adopting new strategies to combat stress-related disengagement and hone focus. These techniques, widely known as mindfulness, are becoming common fixtures in many corporate training programs.
How you can encourage mindfulness at work
Mindfulness is really nothing more than being consciously focused on your immediate environment. While it sounds deceptively simple, many fixtures of the modern workplace discourage this practice. Competing commands can pull workers in multiple directions simultaneously, leading to a frazzled workforce if left unchecked. Fortunately, mindfulness can be practiced even while sitting at a desk at work. EHS Today listed a few simple tricks that can help maintain focus, such as spending a dedicated amount of time doing a single specific thing, or going for a brief walk to change scenery when stuck on a particular job.
Emory University recently conducted a study into practicing mindfulness, and outlined a series of very basic exercises aimed at restoring overall focus. According to the data, focusing attention on a basic physical function such as breathing can be used as a sort of anchor to help redirect focus when minds start to wander. The study found that mindfulness practice had a cumulative effect; the more people actively practiced such techniques, the better their overall focus and ability to effectively multitask became.
“Practicing mindfulness […] has been shown to alter the structure and function of the brain, which is what allows us to learn, acquire new abilities, and improve memory,” Dr. Romie Mushtaq, neurologist and mindfulness proponent told EHS Today.
Mindfulness is catching on in the workplace, with companies now starting to offer mindfulness practice as part of their training programs. As companies and markets continue to expand, and as the demands placed on executives and employees continue to pile up, active mindfulness practice will likely see more and more prevalence in office environments, especially among the more successful companies.