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In 2019/2020, stress and ill mental health accounted for around half of work-related illness and workdays lost according to HSE’s Health and safety at work Summary for 2019/20. What can we all do to help ensure we are less stressed, more productive and more at peace in the workplace environment?
One potential solution is workplace mindfulness. Mindfulness is the concept of being present and fully aware of one’s feelings. This focused awareness allows us to process emotions and give us the space to deal with them in a calm manner. Derived from eastern beliefs, such as Buddhism, mindfulness is a centuries-old practice that only reached the western world in 1979 (thanks to US academic John Kabat-Zinn). Its popularity has risen steadily since then, with even the NHS suggesting it as a recommended treatment for some conditions. Unsurprisingly, the act of being mindful has transitioned into the workplace, with some employees using it to combat the challenges of day-to-day working.
What are the benefits of being mindful at work?
Mental health has become the biggest contributor to sick days in the UK, accounting for around 17.9 million lost days last year. Anxiety, depression and stress are some of the main causes of this, with more than 800,000 UK workers reporting being affected by these conditions in 2019/2020.
Mindfulness can be anything from a simple daily activity to an entire approach to life. Regardless of your level of dedication, studies have shown that practicing mindfulness regularly has the ability to reduce everything from chronic pain to anxiety.
As well tackling symptoms of ill mental health, mindfulness techniques can also help with:
With these benefits on offer, it is clear to see why workers and HR teams are keen to introduce mindfulness into the workplace.
Mindfulness – where to start
- Try regular breathing exercises – when feeling stressed at work, regulate your breathing. There are numerous breathing exercises to try, but the best place to start might be simply counting your breaths (on the inhale and exhale) for four seconds – before starting again.
- Meditation – this is perhaps what first comes to mind when you think of ‘mindfulness’. Meditation generally involves quietly focusing on your thoughts, emotions and breathing. There are plenty of tips for how to meditate here.
- Focus on each task individually – most jobs require some level of multi-tasking but moving quickly between different tasks can be counterproductive and lead to increased stress and anxiety. Giving all your attention to one task at a time can reduce feelings of being overwhelmed and make you more productive.
- Limit distractions – the more things happening around you, the less sense of self you have. If you find yourself surrounded by a lot of ‘noise’, you may benefit from a switch off: spend time away from your phone, social media and emails even for short periods throughout a working day.