Workplace mindfulness - fad or future?

'Mindfulness' has become something of a buzz-word in the media over the past few years – it is no longer viewed as 'a bit alternative' or something that only benefits people sitting on cushions on the floor on a retreat.  Instead, mindfulness is attracting significant media attention, and the potential benefits it can provide in a workplace setting – improved focus, concentration, resilience and engagement, to name a few – mean it is also attracting the attention of HR managers and CEOs across UK businesses.  

But beyond the hype, isworkplace mindfulness a passing fad or the future?

In October 2015, an all-party parliamentary group published the 'Mindful Nation UK' report, the culmination of over a year of research and inquiry into the benefits of mindfulness and its use in the UK. That Report:

·       looks at the use of mindfulness in 4 focus areas: health, education, the workplace and the criminal justice system.

·       sets out research and evidence on the use of mindfulness in the above areas, and

·       puts forward recommendations for extending the reach of mindfulness within the UK.

The report rightly points out that more research on the use of mindfulness-based interventions in the workplace is needed, and cautions against ‘McMindfulness’, a term coined by one US critic for putting corporate mindfulness in place without thought, or to essentially paper over the cracks in a business’s culture.

But if a business is interested in looking at introducing mindfulness-based interventions in the workplace, what does it need to consider?

I’d suggest as a starter for 10…

·       talking to staff about what wellbeing support is needed;

·       finding out whether mindfulness is something that people would engage with – perhaps by running a voluntary mindfulness taster session;

·       considering the evidence behind what does and doesn't work for mindfulness-based intervention, alongside what will work within the business's own culture and values;

·       being wary of introducing mindfulness as a 'quick fix' to difficult human relations issues;

·       seeing mindfulness as part of a wider wellbeing and stress-reduction strategy;

·       thinking about the practicalities of running a work-placed course (Who will attend? When and where will it be held? What about confidentiality?); and

·       ensuring that managers lead by example, by exploring mindfulness themselves, and giving staff the support and time to commit to any work-based course.

As many advocates of mindfulness emphasise, it is no 'panacea'. Businesses need to look at mindfulness as part of an overall wellbeing strategy for staff, and also recognise that there is no 'one size fits all' when it comes to what will work for individuals managing their mental health.

With that final note of caution though, if mindfulness can play a part in enhancing employee wellbeing, the future UK workplace would be a better one, and the potential for mindfulness to impact how we live and work in the UK as a whole is inspiring. I hope, for that reason alone, it isn't just seen as a fad but is taken seriously by employers and employees alike.