Can Mindfulness Improve Your Actions and Reactions at Work?
New app helps users “press pause” on real-life stresses and anxiety
Where does conflict arise most often in your life? Regardless of how you earn a living, you likely find a fair share of interpersonal challenges at work. We don’t always get to pick our teams, projects, or workspaces and not everyone “plays nice” when they don’t see eye-to-eye. Even with the best of intentions, our differing values, varying work styles, and competing personal objectives can increase tension and stress.
That’s why renowned meditation instructors Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach developed Mindfulness Daily at Work, an app that walks listeners through 40 days of short lessons. The lessons include a brief discussion of specific stress triggers followed by a guided meditation. Meditation has been shown in numerous scientific studies to help reduce stress, reduce anxiety, and increase productivity — all areas directly related to work.
Brach said, “It’s at the workplace that we get triggered. We need a pathway back to being clear, centered, and focused.” She added, “Whether you are feeling the stresses just before a presentation or a challenging meeting, right after dealing with a difficult customer, or during a conflict arising from office politics, meditation followed by targeted mindfulness practices can help address specific triggers.”
The Mindfulness Daily at Work app teaches listeners different ways of pausing, breathing, and using reminders to return to a state of mind that can serve people better at work. Kornfield said, “You learn to use your breath and center yourself so that you are balanced and grounded inwardly. You learn how to step out of reactions, frustration and anxiety, to steady your attention and find the most skillful response.”
At the start of the workday or whenever is convenient, listeners take 10 to 15 minutes per day to use the app and learn specific techniques. Then the training can be applied directly “on the job.” Individual meditation sessions can also be reviewed as needed and used as a direct tool for dealing with specific conflicts.
Kornfield said, “The very intention to do it already starts to change you. The realization that, ‘I can pay attention and be more compassionate and empathetic to myself and stay more balanced,’ already shows that part of you is getting empowered. Even short periods of meditation can be very powerful for people.”
A recent study on mindfulness at work, in the journal “Industrial and Organizational Psychology” found that mindfulness could help:
• Manage employee stress
• Improve high potential development
• Enhance engagement and reduce burnout
• Help employees cope with organizational change
Sharing lifetimes of experience navigating stress
Brach and Kornfield each said they have enjoyed this opportunity to put together in a single app their lifetimes of experience exploring and teaching the topics covered. Brach said she knows the techniques “really make a difference in navigating stress.” She said, “It excites me to think it will go to thousands if not hundreds of thousands of users, and in 12 minutes per day in some weeks it can really give people skills to change their lives, enhance work-life balance, lower stress, and deal with conflicts. … I love it.”
Kornfield said, “This training is very simple, without complexity or strange requirements. That’s partly why I’m excited about it.” He said that the app is easy to use, practical, doesn’t require any type of belief system, and uses the best neuroscience. He added, “This can change your life, and help you find clarity and strength. It can quiet your mind, and help you focus on what matters most.”
Mindfulness Daily at Work follows the release of an earlier app called Mindfulness Daily. Kornfield said the “at work” version was developed to ensure examples used were effective and offered concrete skills for the workplace. Kornfield said the authors asked themselves, “When at the water cooler or a meeting with your boss or employee, when having a conflict or a deadline, or answering many emails and texts, how do you do that in a way to maintain well-being?”
We spend most of our waking hours at work, exacerbating the impact of any existing tensions on our lives. He said the purpose of the app is to help people, “maintain an inner sense of balance, in your own body and your own mind …and understand how your mindful caring attention aids everything you do.” He added, “Working in a wise and healthy way is really important. The origin of this training — in the Buddhist tradition — is called, ‘right livelihood.’ Where and how you work can determine a lot about how happy you are. If you approach your work in a way that brings you satisfaction and well-being, which is possible, this benefits your whole life.”
Who can use Mindfulness Daily at Work
Whether you have never experimented with mindfulness, have tried meditation and found it difficult, or have had positive experiences with meditation and mindfulness in the past, Mindfulness Daily at Work is designed to support both neophytes and experienced meditators.
The app can also serve a broad range of workplaces — including businesses, hospitals, schools, and manufacturers. Kornfield highlighted the similarities of workplace stressors across sectors. He said, “Whether you are on factory floor or in a cubicle or managing people or being managed, whether in service or education or health care, there are still the fundamental issues of stress, demand, conflict. Those difficulties show up everywhere.”
Situations calling for a mindful response:
• customer service
• office politics
• water cooler discussions
• employee-manager conflicts
• pressing deadlines
• large volumes of emails and texts
Similarly, he said, the skills of learning to tend to your body’s signals of stress work across the board. “Mindfulness is proving valuable in business, in healthcare, in finance, and education. It helps at all levels from CEOs to ground staff. Whether you are a nurse in the ER or a manager at manufacturing plant, you have the same fundamental human problems, issues, challenges, and opportunities. It is in these very difficulties that mindfulness helps you to work in a way that is beneficial to yourself and others.”
The lessons can even be shared in a group setting. Entire groups of staff members have used the app to undergo mindfulness training together. Brach said, “It changes the culture of the workplace. … You see a whole new level of collaboration, productivity, and wellbeing.”
Brach and Kornfield also each shared the perspective that the app is really about tapping into human potential. Ultimately, Kornfield said, “One of the beautiful results is that you discover your own capacities beyond just feeling okay — capacities for tremendous joy and ease and connection that we all have as human beings.”
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