Mindfulness Training: Should Your HR Department Consider It?
Discussions about meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, and other mindfulness activities abound these days. As our society becomes more connected, the line between work and free time blurs. Studies show the benefits of taking vacations and disconnecting for both employees and employers. To date, the onus has been on employees to recharge and reinvigorate on vacations and in their hours away from work. What is human resources’ role in employee mindfulness? Should those in human resource careers actively encourage mindfulness—and if so, should it be on company time?
According to the nonprofit Mindful.org, mindfulness is “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.”1 Being present helps us stay focused both at work and in our social lives. It allows us to limit distractions, stay engaged in conversations, and plan, execute, and complete work.
However, today’s workplaces are sometimes referred to as the “PAID reality” where employees are “under pressure, always on, information overloaded, and distracted.” Work is a constant struggle in attention while thwarting the persistent distractions of PAID reality.2 Staying present and mindful at work is a continuous challenge for employees.
It’s no surprise that under these conditions, employee dissatisfaction is common. According to a 2016 American Psychological Association Work and Well-Being Survey of 1,501 employed adults, one in three respondents reported being “chronically stressed” at work. Furthermore, less than half of those surveyed believed their organizations “support[ed] employee well-being.” These respondents felt senior leadership played fundamental roles in employee well-being.3
To stem the tide of the present PAID reality, many organizations are launching mindfulness training programs. Proponents of workplace mindfulness training feel the practice reduces staff stress and positively contributes to company culture, making employees happier, healthier, and more productive. Many notable companies are adopting workplace mindfulness training, including Google, JPMorgan Chase, General Mills, Bank of America, and Aetna, as well as some NFL and NBA teams. While most results have been anecdotal, many companies and their leadership have been supportive of mindfulness initiatives in their organizations.4
Meanwhile, others doubt the efficacy and sincerity of mindfulness training programs in the workplace. They point to a lack of research on the benefits of workplace mindfulness training, especially from a business perspective. Some feel the practice has become overhyped, attaining a cult-like status for participants while encouraging social conformity. Naysayers argue that while mindfulness can provide health benefits, research hasn’t yet shown it to improve company profitability, critical thinking, or employee performance.4
With such divergent perspectives, what’s the solution for HR managers? Deliberate on a compromise between the sides. To successfully and thoughtfully implement a mindfulness training program in your organization, human resource professionals should consider:4,5
- Introducing mindfulness training as a part of your company’s overall stress reduction program.
- Creating a welcoming but optional program. Those who want to participate—or who don’t want to—should be able to do so without fear of judgment.
- Keeping it going. Many organizations unveil mindfulness initiatives with a large event, but neglect to follow up with additional resources, periodic activities, and training to encourage or maintain new habits.
- Examining other areas in your organization you can impact health and wellness, work-life balance, and employee satisfaction.
- Allowing consistent time to dedicate to mindfulness. When possible, a designated space for these activities can also foster participation.
- Leadership participation and support. When leaders encourage wellness and mindfulness, employees take note. Workplace culture starts with management.
Like all aspects of company culture, employees take cues from leadership. When the C-suite actively encourages and participates in mindfulness activities, others follow. Prioritizing mindfulness may be a small first step, but with widespread adoption and habitual practice, it could benefit employee wellness, productivity, and company culture beyond the measures of a balance sheet.
If you’re interested in organizational leadership and fostering a positive workplace culture, Walden University, an accredited university with flexible online education options, offers graduate human resource degree programs, including an online master’s in human resource management. In Walden’s online MS in Human Resource Management program, students can take HR degree coursework in organizational effectiveness, human resource training, and personnel management and collaboration en route to rewarding HR careers.
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