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Company Culture

The Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness at Work

From insensitive comments to common phrases, scents, and situations, the workplace can become a frequent place to experience triggers. A trigger is any stimulus that causes you stress. Taboo topics, a specific person, a date, or a power difference are just a few of many triggers.

There is no definitive explanation for the cause of triggers, but some researchers believe there is a difference between the way the brain stores memories of traumatic events and non-traumatic events. For example, the brain can interpret a post-traumatic experience as a current event, which can then create a fight or flight response.

There are four main types of triggers:

  1. External: Typically senses, like sounds, images, and scents, that elicit responses based on past experiences. An example of an external trigger would be smelling the fragrance that a deceased loved one wore.
  2. Internal: These are intense feelings resulting from past experiences. An example of an internal trigger could be fear of scheduling a medical appointment after a negative healthcare experience.
  3. Trauma: A powerful reaction stemming from past trauma. A common example is loud noises (i.e. fireworks) that can cause traumatic triggers in combat veterans.
  4. Symptom: These generally result from a physical change which can lead to larger mental health issues. For example, a lack of sleep could cause symptoms of bipolar disorder to surface.

Because triggers often cause an emotional reaction, it is imperative for those who may have experienced a traumatic event to practice mindfulness to develop a better response to potential triggers and to communicate with peers on how to navigate such triggers.

Mindfulness in the workplace can offer incredible benefits to both employees coping with triggers and their peers.

Benefits of Mindfulness in the Workplace

Mindfulness at work has proven beneficial to both employers and employees. Here are just a few of the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace.

  1. Supports Healthier Relationships. Building strong workplace friendships is important for career success because healthy workplace relationships can positively impact issues, by buffering stressors, fostering effective communication, and promoting creativity and collaboration. Positive social relationships can also strengthen empathy and response flexibility. Employees who practice mindfulness are more likely to experience neutral responses that garner greater acceptance by coworkers.
  2. Increases Performance. Mindfulness can elevate workplace performance through task-specific demands. For example, if a role requires interaction with heavy emotional content, time to decompress and the ability to regulate emotions can facilitate improved performance. Additionally, mindfulness is associated with fewer cognitive deficiencies, like forgetfulness and distractions.
  3. Strengthens Decision-Making. Mindfulness develops a stronger intuition, which can lead to better decisions. For example, heightened awareness of “gut feelings” can increase task performance, especially at higher levels of expertise. It also reduces decision bias thanks to focused attention on internal and external stimuli.
    Boosts Job Satisfaction and Employee Morale and Engagement. Mindfulness has been linked to positive job satisfaction due to a more proactive (vs reactive) approach to workplace stressors. Mindfulness also boosts job satisfaction through increased self-determined behavior, which is behavior aligned with personal needs and values. Practicing mindfulness can also enhance employee engagement and reduce burnout and turnover.
  4. Enhances Adaption to Change. Change can be difficult in the workplace, especially if it is perceived negatively. However, mindfulness aids employees in coping with organizational change by reducing ego-defensive reactivity and encouraging objectivity. For example, employee resistance to change is often the reason for workplace changes, but mindfulness allows employees to approach with calmness and an objective perspective.
  5. Develops Leadership Skills. Organizational and executive leadership concerns with leadership development have long been disconnected. However, lack of self-awareness has been reported as the top factor jeopardizing potential leadership success. Increasing mindfulness can help employees recognize areas of improvement and opportunities to set themselves up for leadership roles, such as upskilling and reskilling.

How to Practice Mindfulness at Work

  1. Identify personal triggers. The first step in practicing mindfulness is identifying personal triggers. Consider past experiences—who or what was involved? Where, when, and why did it occur? Were there any noticeable patterns or warning signs of risk of such an event to transpire? How did you react? How would you have wanted to react? These are important questions to ask.
  2. Understand your response. Once you’ve identified the trigger and answered some of the questions—try to understand your response. Do you always respond the same way to that trigger? What do other people who were present for that experience observe of your behavior(s)? It’s important to determine the thought process that leads to your trigger and the way you respond.
  3. Change your thought process. The hardest part can be changing your thought process, but it’s also the most important. Brainstorm ways you can address your triggers and the way in which you respond to them. Leaning on loved ones or seeking professional help can provide you insight as to what’s happening in your thought process in order to better control your response to them.
  4. Consider trigger warnings. Though trigger warnings can contribute to avoidance behaviors, they can also prepare you for potentially triggering materials or situations. Perhaps utilizing trigger warnings until you can develop an effective response plan to cope with your triggers might be useful.
  5. Practice self-care. Lastly, prioritize self-care. This can be in the form of talking to someone you trust (i.e. a loved one, friend, coworker, or therapist) or mindfulness techniques like meditation, deep breathing, and journaling. Your self-care should focus on reducing stress, cultivating mental clarity, and strengthening your mental state.

Mindfulness offers businesses invaluable benefits. Through continuous feedback, goal tracking and alignment, and competencies, Namely’s talent management solutions can help simplify the way you support your employees.

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