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How mindfulness can lead to happier employees

In recent years, mindfulness has become something of a buzzword

This has the double effect of people misusing it and others dismissing it. However, research has shown significant benefits for individuals who practice mindfulness and more recent studies have even shown how effective mindfulness can be for managers in business settings.

Efficiency and productivity in employees can drop significantly when there are continual targets and pressure to achieve, but it can be hard to find opportunities to recharge. Exhausted workers who are tired both physically and emotionally have reached their limit. The concern for management is that releasing the pressure and allowing things to slow and staff to recuperate will lead to everything stopping completely.

When management is mindful, employees are happier and work more effectively, as shown by recent studies. Mindfulness is not a new idea, but applications in the business world are only recently being fully realised. When you think logically, it feels obvious, managers clearly directly affect their staff’s performance, so a mindful approach is going to make employees more satisfied with their role.

Research performed at Harvard in 2011 shows the hippocampus area of the brain significantly increased in grey matter density when people completed a mindfulness course. The hippocampus is not only associated with memory and emotions, but also with compassion, introspection and self awareness.

Another study published in the Mindfulness journal actually sought to assess the effect of a supervisor’s mindfulness on their employees’ performance and wellbeing. Working with 96 supervisors across a number of industries, the researchers measured mindfulness levels in supervisors and looked at the employees’ work-life balance, emotional exhaustion and job performance.

As they had suspected, the researchers found lowered emotional exhaustion levels amongst employees of leaders with higher mindfulness levels. In fact, higher mindfulness amongst leaders was also associated with better work-life balance for employees and increased overall performance in their job.

A second study, also published in the Mindfulness journal, aimed to replicate what was found in the first study but to also extend the work to include citizenship behaviours within the organisation.

They found that a mindful leader once again was associated with higher ratings for job performance and increased satisfaction levels. However, further to this confirmation of the first study, they also found a more mindful leader was associated with employees more likely to engage in good citizenship.

Clearly, all these results must be considered alongside the knowledge that mindfulness alone is not enough. Employees need to feel a level of autonomy, be competent in their role and connect with their peers to be happy in their work.

Whatever your personal viewpoint on the effectiveness of mindful thinking, it may be advisable to heed the research and try mindfulness for a month. This will allow you to assess any benefits for yourself. Mindfulness is essentially about being aware of yourself and how you may react to stressful situations. It is all about training your brain so you can be clear about your goals, how you could achieve these and about yourself as a whole. Surely, this would be beneficial for any manager.

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