We live and work in a world that thrives on distraction: the constant email pings, meeting notifications, the next item on our seemingly never-ending to-do lists. It's easy to succumb to coasting unconsciously through our days.
However, when you track that effect across an organization, it has a measurable impact. Yet it can be challenging to address an issue as personal and nuanced as stress. One of the best tactics is promoting and supporting mindfulness tactics for your employees.
Mindfulness is about awareness. More than anything, it's about being present in the moment — understanding what's going on around you and within you.
When we're not present in the moment, if we're not consciously aware of what we're doing, while we're doing it, our work suffers. We fall prey to stress and the toll it takes on our health, and our productivity takes a nose-dive.
A highly stressed employee costs the company an extra $2,000 per year in healthcare when compared to their less-stressed peers.
Healthcare costs at Aetna — which total more than $90 million a year — are going down now that they offer mindfulness programs. In 2012, as mindfulness programs ramped up, healthcare costs fell a total of seven percent. (That equals $6.3 million going straight to the bottom line, partly attributed to mindfulness training.)
Aetna calculated that productivity gains alone were about $3,000 per employee, equaling an 11-to-1 return on investment.
Mindfulness tips your employees can put into practice today
Multitasking is appealing because it creates a sense of productivity. Unfortunately, that's not the case — we're just tricking ourselves into feeling like we're doing more work. Nobody can multitask effectively; when your brain is forced to jump back and forth from one task to another, it fatigues more quickly and loses data while constantly shifting processes.
We're tempted to multitask at work because of the constant time crunch we find ourselves in. There never seem to be enough hours in the day, and that's not to mention our personal commitments. In reality, multitasking is the problem that creates the time famine we feel, because we're not able to effectively focus.
When we commit to working on one task at a time, we'll find ourselves more energetic and efficient. Try focusing on one task at a time, and be aware of the pull of multitasking. When you feel the need, stop for a moment to recognize what's happening, take a breath, and refocus on your present task and how you'll feel when it's completed.
2. Use a mindfulness reminder
Mindfulness is about staying in the present moment, so it's funny that we sometimes need a reminder. It's natural for the mind to wander, but the technology we use, with all its notifications, doesn't help. We've effectively trained ourselves to be distracted.
We've all had those moments of working without thinking, doing a task by "muscle" memory alone. This can be a defense mechanism in a fast-paced environment with significant demands. However, when we're not mentally present, our creativity and problem-solving skills are stunted.
Try setting an hourly alarm on your phone or using a mindfulness app. Every time you hear the ping, pause for a moment amid the demands, take a few slow, deep breaths, and make a conscious decision to continue to be mindful of where you are and what you're doing. This kind of reminder can shake you out of autopilot mode and help you focus again.
3. Show gratitude
The busier we are, the more we tend to focus on what's going wrong. It's a natural response to stress, but it disrupts our ability to work effectively and make progress.
Even though there will always be negative things, we can train ourselves to balance our anxieties with a positive focus on what we have accomplished and the progress we're making towards our goals.
Not only will we feel better, but showing gratitude will make a positive difference in our quality of work and personal experiences. Be aware of your negative thinking when a situation arises and make a conscious decision to recognize what you're grateful for in the specific circumstance. This will shift you out of the fight-or-flight mental state, improve your resilience, and prevent you from spiraling into anxiety.
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