Mindful work is helping organizations create teams that are happier, engaged and more productive. In part of a series of must-read books for business leaders, we're examining "Mindful Work: How Meditation Is Changing Business From the Inside Out" by David Gelles. The book explores how employers can use mindfulness training and practices to fight employee disengagement, keep productivity high and improve their financial results.

Workers tend to spend a large percent of their day focused on something other than what they're doing. It's easy to see how that can have an unfavorable impact, from expensive safety concerns to mounting stress that can impact a bottom line. Yoga and meditation are coming to the forefront of a mindfulness movement that's helping organizations reduce absenteeism and lower insurance costs.

Here are three aspects of mindfulness in the workplace that every financial leader should consider.

1. There Are Real Cost Benefits to Mindfulness in the Workplace

Mindfulness in the workplace offers significant benefits, from increasing productivity to improving worker health. What is mindfulness? According to Gelles, "Mindfulness, simply put, is the ability to see what's going on in our heads without getting away with it." Mastering mindfulness lets employees focus on their most important tasks, helps minimize stress and improves workplace dynamics. It can also improve an organization's spending. Mindful Employer notes that introducing mindfulness into the workplace can help save up to 30 percent in lower premiums, reduced absenteeism and less turnover, thanks to improved mental health. The Atlantic reports that one insurer that introduced a mindfulness program saved $2,000 in health care premiums and increased employee productivity by $3,000 per year. Harvard Business Review (HBR) reports that mindfulness builds resiliency, increases creativity, improves relationships and improves EQ — all of which may translate to less wasted time and better bottom line results.

2. Focus on Your Leaders' Ability to Be Mindful of Top Priorities

When your leadership has a strong vision and remains on task, it can become easier for their teams to follow suit. HBR reports that investing in mindfulness training for leaders paid off in three ways — resilience, collaboration and the ability to lead effectively in complex conditions. However, they also found that in order to reap the benefits, leaders needed to spend at least 10 minutes each day actively engaged in a mindfulness activity.

HBR reports that mindfulness can be defined as follows: "Two skills define a mindful mind: focus and awareness. More explicitly, focus is the ability to concentrate on what you're doing in the moment, while awareness is the ability to recognize and release unnecessary distractions as they arise." When your leadership can focus on what's essential and let go of distractions, they're able to close deals, run an effective organization and overcome the challenges that slow down organizations and hurt profits.

3. All Firms Can Implement Mindfulness Training

The business case for mindfulness training is compelling, yet it's difficult to know where to get started. Gelles suggests sponsoring meditation or yoga classes, which can be accomplished through workshops, ongoing classes, online tools or coaching. However, it's helpful to remember that different mindfulness practices may be useful for different workers. As you consider rolling out a mindfulness program, consider:

  • Offering a variety of options, from yoga and meditation to nature walks, exercise, listening to calming music and practices such a tai chi. Mindfulness is rarely expensive, and different methods may be more accessible than others within your workplace.
  • Securing leadership support by having leaders participate in training and talk to their teams about mindfulness.
  • Dedicating time and space that allows workers to incorporate a mindfulness practice into their day, such as setting aside a room or allowing a 15-minute break during the day for these activities.
  • Supporting employees in an ongoing way, by offering training, classes, apps or access to experts.
  • Setting goals for your mindfulness programs, such as reducing absenteeism or increasing productivity, and measuring the results on an ongoing basis to further refine your program.

Incorporating mindful work can be a strategy finance leaders use to help make their organization's leaders more effective, manage stress for all employees and improve performance across the board. It begins with understanding the profound impact mindfulness can have on your employees' states of mind, as well as how it can improve their performance. Reaping the compounded benefits over time can help promise a strong ROI.

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Tags: Innovation