The modern workplace is increasingly self-aware with an array of progressive companies tuned into the numerous benefits of embracing wellbeing programmes, biophilic design and increasingly, mindfulness in the workplace.
This trend towards staff centricity is about more than companies simply wanting their staff to be happy and can be attributed to an abundance of studies and research that points towards increased productivity, greater creativity and improved talent retention amongst others. As such companies are striving to identify and implement new and innovative workplace initiatives to improve employee wellbeing and consequently, the promotion of mindfulness in the workplace has risen.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is far from a new phenomenon with it roots in eastern Buddhist and Hindu cultures where it has been embedded for centuries. Put simply mindfulness refers to the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
Mindfulness refers to the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.
Mindfulness gained popularity in the western world approx. 30 years ago by Eckhart Tolle, a highly influential German-born Canadian who has written extensively on the subject and is now commonly used as a technique to reduce stress and anxiety-related conditions.
The need for mindfulness in the workplace
Today’s office and the indeed wider world is uber-connected and with increased digital connectivity comes frequent interruptions and distractions which fragment and disrupt the normal workday but also reduce productivity. The advent of technology has created the ‘Always-on’ culture which has meant staff are constantly accessible and regularly take the job home, skewing the traditional work-life balance. Think about it – how often do you check email outside of work and when do you really, truly switch off?
Add the other distractions that are commonplace in office environments – colleagues conversing, phones ringing and printers bleeping and its not difficult to understand how staff are finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate, and why mindfulness and creating a mindful workplace is an attractive proposition to many.
There are numerous means through which office designers can be mindful of mindfulness (pardon the pun) when creating a new or revised office design, all of which can have a positive impact on levels of wellbeing, productivity, collaboration and much more.
The Benefits of Mindfulness in the Workplace
So why should a company adopt a proactive mindfulness approach in the workplace? Well there are several including the list below which a recent article entitled ‘Scientifically Proven Benefits of Mindfulness’ in Forbes
- Mindfulness Reduces Anxiety
- Mindfulness Meditation Reduces Implicit Age and Race Bias
- Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) May Prevent and Treat Depression
- Increase Body Satisfaction
- Mindfulness Meditation Improves Cognition
- Mindfulness Meditation Help the Brain Reduce Distraction
Of course, all the above benefits combine to create a happier, more creative, more productive workforce so it is no surprise that companies like Salesforce, Google, Goldman Sachs and even the House of Commons and US Army have begun rolling out mindfulness campaigns.
But how does mindfulness translate to office design?
There are a variety of ways through which office design can promote mindfulness in any workspace but critically providing staff with choice and a variety of different spaces to work from within the physical environment is paramount. What we mean here, and if you’ve read some of our other pieces, you’ll know this, is providing staff with dedicated spaces for concentration, for collaboration and most importantly from a mindfulness perspective, for relaxation.
The benefits of having dedicated space to concentrate without distraction are obvious and many companies, big and small are including ‘tech-free’ library-style spaces within their workplaces where staff can work without being interrupted by colleagues, their inboxes or phones.
The idea of tech-free spaces continues into the relaxation space where a ‘no phone’ policy is gaining traction. These spaces are now designed to encourage colleagues to interact and engage with one another and are also multipurpose in the sense that they can be utilized for lunchtime yoga sessions for example, or for guest speakers to present on all manner of topics, work and life-related. For example, on one project we recently worked on, the company brought in experts on cycle safety, nutrition and even baking to present.
In addition, as humans, we crave the outdoors and studies have shown that optimizing natural light and bringing elements of nature into the workplace have enormous benefits, and support mindfulness. As such, office designers should always opt to maximise daylight in any workplace they are creating while also incorporating elements of nature into the space – plants and natural finishes (wood, stone etc..).
Skylights and positioning open plan workstations beside windows, where there is the best light is also worth considering – we still find it amazing that many companies to position large boardrooms and reception spaces where there is the best light.
Less common but on the rise are dedicated meditation rooms, recharge spaces or even relaxation suites in the workplace – weekly massage is relatively commonplace, but we have also heard of sleep pods, saunas and Jacuzzi’s. We expect this trend to continue but it doesn’t need to be saunas and Jacuzzi’s, it can be a small space where staff can get away from it all, and practice mindfulness.
The team at K2 are big advocates of mindfulness and firmly believe that it doesn’t take much for companies to be mindful of their employees and as already outlined, the benefits of doing so make mindfulness an attractive option.
From a personal perspective, try to be mindful when at work which can be easier than you think and maybe try downloading an app like Headspace for use on your commute to and from work – simple changes can make a big difference and as they say, we must start somewhere.