Feeling burned out at your job due to work related stress? Are you emotionally exhausted for many days? Are you less productive? Do you experience a decrease in job satisfaction? You’re not alone. Did you know:
- 80% of workers feel stress on the job.
- Nearly 50% need help managing stress.
- 42% say their coworkers need help with stress.
- One million Americans miss work each day due to stress.
- Job stress costs the U.S. industry over $300 billion annually.
According to the CDC, “Job stress can be defined as the harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. Job stress can lead to poor health and even injury.”
Workplace stress can lead to short tempers; lack of innovation; high turnover; gossiping rather than giving constructive feedback; burnout; information overload; diminished productivity; disconnection; unhappy customers; quiet quitting; no breaks or balance; fear of asking for help; rule bending; negating boss approval; loss of morale, lower performance; and loss of interest in job. Not to mention it impacts mental and physical health.
Society values competition and pushing ourselves to the brink. Burnout is not a badge of honor but some wear it proudly. We can have a million things on our minds both work related and stress at home so pulling ourselves out of that can be difficult.
However, a type of stress known as “eustress” or using stress in a positive manner can help us to feel motivated to take on new projects and learn new skills. So stress isn’t always a bad thing. It’s how we address it mindfully.
Champion Health provides this diagram of stress and work efficiency to evaluate oneself on:
Mindfulness is a great way to manage workplace stress! It focuses on the practice of acceptance and attention to the present moment. James Redfield says, “Where attention goes, energy flows.” We must turn our attention to the present and prioritize what really matters. Mindfulness means becoming an observer to your thoughts and feelings. Let them pass by as clouds in the sky.
Mirabai Bush, famous for introducing mindfulness practices to Google employees, says "Introducing mindfulness into the workplace does not prevent conflict from arising or difficult issues from coming up. But when difficult issues do arise... they are more likely to be skillfully acknowledged, held, and responded to by the group. Over time with mindfulness, we learn to develop the inner resources that will help us navigate through difficult, trying, and stressful situations with more ease, comfort, and grace.”
However, not everyone works at places like Google or gets the same level of mindfulness practices. There may be jobs that you are less enthusiastic about or less noteworthy. You can still be mindful no matter where you work. Mindfulness can lead you to detach healthily from an environment that may or may not serve your interests. It’s not about making things perfect but about being present.
Caitlin Kelly said, “You have to detach as much from it as a source of stress as humanly possible while putting in enough effort to stay employed. Just because they're paying you doesn't mean you have to put your heart and soul into it." Mindfulness is not an esoteric practice. Anyone can do it anywhere! You don’t need to be a guru; you just need to ground yourself in the present. In fact, mindfulness changes the brain in just eight weeks, and if used in the workplace, creates conscious employeeism.
Here are 6 Benefits of Mindfulness in the Workplace
1. Mindful Emailing
Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke University, says email communication influences a quick response time, but only about ⅓ of our emails are important and urgent. This leads to distraction and slower task completion. Mindfulness can help us discern what is necessary to reply to right now and what can be pursued later.
Response time hinders our communication style. Mindfulness can reduce misunderstandings in email communication. It’s easy to become passive aggressive or reactive when the person is not right in front of us. Mindfulness can help us to take a pause before hitting reply to that email. We try to connect with the person on the other end. We remember that they are human, not just a screen in front of us.
We can ask ourselves if our email is necessary, kind, considerate and communicated clearly; if the person on the other end will feel hurt by it; if this person is the correct party to send this information to; if CCing is the right thing to do; and if it’s something that can be shared face-to-face instead.
Simply taking a breath can stop unnecessary exchanges and create empathy. It gives us more time to proofread our work so it’s polished and polite. This creates impulse control.
2. Attention Training
Daunting tasks and information overload can create distraction and disconnection. It’s important to bring our attention back to the present moment rather than simply going from task to task. Dan Harris, the author of 10 Percent Happier, says “This is attention training and the neuroscience shows that this daily exercise can boost the areas of the brain that have to do with attention regulation. Multitasking is a pernicious myth that is preventing us from getting our work done.”
Mindfully pausing between tasks can be the ultimate game changer as to how much we can get done in a day. It feels counterintuitive to take breaks in order to do more, but actually, this helps us work more efficiently and make less mistakes. Busyness doesn’t always mean progress.
3. Positive Workplace Relationships
According to Positive Psychology, “Employees who practice being mindful are therefore more likely to show greater acceptance of colleagues without reactivity. (Glomb et al., 2012).”
Coworkers are people you collaborate with, but they also make great companions. Mindfulness can create a more relaxed and peaceful environment to communicate. You can take time in the water cooler to ask questions about their lives; invite them to events; or improve team building overall. You can do non-work related things together. This helps you feel more connected as you work together. Mindfully listen to your coworkers and make them feel like they matter. This will ease tension and de-escalate any issue. It’s okay to have fun together!
Prosocial behavior leads to people to ask for help and give greater input. Ask mindful questions such as: How does this make you feel? Do you feel seen? What do you need? How can I be more supportive? Taking pauses to get that feedback is vital.
Respond rather than react. If someone takes more credit than you for a group project, you can try to understand it from their point of view. Where did you not address something in the project? Where did miscommunication happen? Did you make them feel valued for their effort? You don’t have to compromise on who gets credit, but you can respond respectfully. This creates peaceful effort from everyone.
Forbes says “Group meditation in the workplace is already being used successfully to increase collaboration, innovation and quality of work.” In other words, those who meditate together stay together. Take the time to be mindful as a team.
4. Stress Resilience
Mindfulness reduces the stress response, improves overall health, regulates attention and emotion. This leads to stress resilience.
Stress resilience counters workplace stress. If people are less stressed, they are more likely to succeed. The stress response can exceed our ability to cope with things. But stress resilience can help us calm down, take stock of what’s necessary to complete tasks, prioritize and perform better.
According to Brain Facts, the stress response is impacted by perception. We have power over our stress response by changing our perception. Mindfulness changes our perception by making us self-aware and present. We can perceive our workplace as positive. And therefore we are stress resilient.
5. Remove Imposter Syndrome
Maya Angelou once said: “I have written eleven books, but each time I think ‘uh oh, they’re going to find out now. I’ve run a game on everybody, and they’re going to find me out.’”
Imposter syndrome at work happens when we feel like a fraud in our field or like we aren’t good enough. This is born out of negative self-talk. Mindfulness helps you to not believe your thoughts. Taking a mindful approach, you detach yourself from your inner critic fueling imposter syndrome. It ends the comparison trap because you accept your authentic self and capabilities.
Imposter syndrome isn’t always the fear of failure; it is very much the fear of success. That we will be found out to not be enough for the role. Or that we have been faking it to make it.
Mindfulness helps you become assertive because you don’t listen to those thoughts. They don’t define you or your worth. Pay attention to what you do well at work and ask for feedback. Instead of hiding from the spotlight, you step forward because you know that you have what it takes.
6. Tolerance for Aspects of Jobs We Don’t Like
According to Harvard Business Review, surface acting is when we repress the negative feelings we have about a duty so we can survive. However, studies show that deep acting - conjuring up positive feelings about something - can actually influence us to feel better. This is when mindfulness practices can become challenging to apply when discerning how to respond to workplace stress.
Sometimes there’s nothing we can do about an aspect of a job we don’t like. Mindfulness is a route away from acting, but there may still be some acting in part. For example, customer service people may have to smile through a customer’s hostility. Mindfulness allows us to manage our own reactions. We can do this while staying in the moment. There are limits to mindfulness practices - they won’t make everything rainbows and sunshine. But they can make things tolerable. That is the mindful mission - to do what it takes to get the best results.
Mindfulness practices create support and strategies to bring a team together to stay on the same page. Validation helps employees feel less alone and find compassion for one another during a difficult duty. Mindfulness programs such as Awaken Pittsburgh's Mindful Connections for Workplace Wellness can not only be a lifeline, but a lifestyle your company can adopt to improve work performance.