"Mindfulness Improves Workplace Performance" by Helen Davidson

A comprehensive new review of research on mindfulness, carried out by doctoral candidate, Christopher Lyddy, at Case Western Reserve University, has shown that investing in a corporate culture of mindfulness has a plethora of benefit for employees and employers – including better concentration on the tasks at hand, improved behaviour and greater attention during working hours. Lyddy notes that traditionally, Western companies were reticent to invest in mindfulness, which was viewed as an esoteric practice that had few practical benefits. The new research has shed light on the many ways that mindfulness can enable teams to work together towards common goals, without letting distraction or stress steer them away from their intended path.

The benefits of being and thinking ‘in the here and now’ have been touted repeatedly over the past decade, largely in therapeutic settings where stress can be a setback on the road to recovery. Thus, patients in rehabilitation centres for substance abuse and eating disorders, as well as elderly persons suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, have benefited from research showing that mindfulness lowers levels of stress hormone, cortisol. The latter, when present at chronically high levels, has been linked to everything from Type 2 diabetes to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Stress can also reduce our ability to concentrate and can lower work productivity. Mindfulness-based activities such as yoga are also currently being relied upon to lower symptoms of depression and anxiety in patients receiving radiotherapy for diseases such as breast cancer; since stress and anxiety are so widespread in the business community, it is only logical that mindfulness should make its way into business.

Lyddy’s study took into account 4,000 scientific papers on the various ways in which mindfulness makes a positive impact on the human brain. The findings indicated that some of the many benefits of mindfulness include:

  • Improved overall functioning: Mindfulness improves cognition, attention, and the way we relate to others.
  • Concentration: One of the biggest impediments to productivity is a wandering mind. Mindfulness teaches us to fulfil our functions by keeping our attention on the task at hand.
  • Improved relationships: Mindfulness keeps the ‘fight or flight’ response at bay. It lowers reactivity in social interactions. Instead of escaping from a conflict or releasing tension in a negative manner (for instance through the abuse of drugs or alcohol), mindfulness can help employees deal with present conflicts in a healthy, fruitful manner.

 

Lyddy has noted that the overwhelming evidence in favour of mindfulness has prompted the British Parliament to recently launch a program entitled Mindful Nation UK, which relies on this ancient practice and way of life, to improve the people’s work performance, as well as their health and happiness. Perhaps businesses, too, should consider a similar investment in their employees, to boost productivity and wellbeing.
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Helen Davidson was a healthcare worker before taking a career break to have her two children. Once she became a mom, her priorities changed and she realized she'd rather spend quality time with them and make a living from home. She turned to writing and now pens articles on health and wellness. In her free time she volunteers for a number of mental health charities.