You may have heard the term “mindfulness” used a lot of late, particularly in the business world. And there’s a good reason for it. Mindfulness is more than just the latest buzzword to surface and circulate amongst companies and corporations.
The term, at its most boiled down, refers to a state of being conscious, aware and in the moment. The fundamental idea is to focus our awareness on the present moment to achieve a sense of calm and focus.
But what does mindfulness really mean to businesses? Why is it important and how can offices be designed to encourage it?
Mindful Office Design Has Proven Benefits on Employee Wellbeing
When we said that mindfulness was more than just a buzzword, we meant it. As a whole, we’re more stressed at work than ever before. We spend a sizeable portion of our lives at work and for many people, it’s a frenzied blur of meetings, phone calls, and deadlines. By the time we leave for the day, we’re often stressed out and exhausted.
But it doesn’t stop there. Technology has created constant accessibility, which in turn has created a culture where we tend to take the job home with us. This is skewing the traditional work-life balance.
Practicing mindfulness won’t reduce our workload, cut back the number of meetings or phone calls we have to take, or get the tough boss off our backs. But what it will do is allow us to maximize our spare moments during the workday to reduce the pace, regroup and refocus.
It Can Directly Affect a Business’ Bottom Line
At its core, mindfulness is an ancient practice that is being implemented to solve modern business issues – namely employee morale and productivity – and it does a good job of doing so.
In fact, it’s so effective that companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, LinkedIn, General Mills among many others have all adopted mindfulness practices into their stress reduction programs.
And the reason for this is simple: there’s a proven correlation between employee well-being and productivity. That is to say, happy employees will do better work and make the business more profitable, and unhappy employees will do the opposite.
Mindfulness presents a number of scientifically proven benefits including reduced anxiety, improved cognition and sharpened focus. In fact, the practice is also said to improve overall happiness and mental wellbeing.
Leveraging mindfulness within a company can be as structured as implementing mindfulness seminars and encouraging meditation to start meetings, or as flexible as simply designing spaces that make it convenient.
Whether a small-scale update or a full office revamp, here are a few ways to design an atmosphere that uses the principles of mindfulness to foster focus, morale and productivity.
Create a Space for Employees to Meditate
The term “meditate” can be used interchangeably here with any other number of verbs – decompress, unwind, regroup. What’s important is the facilitation of a space that is conducive to doing so.
One of the key principles of mindful office design is creating the ability to escape the stress and distractions of the typical workplace through focus on the present moment. A designated quiet space will allow employees to practice mindfulness in whatever capacity they see fit – from breathing to eating to being actively mindful of the peace and quiet.
Even an unused room or closet will suffice.
Develop Areas That Allow for Interaction Without Devices or Distractions
We have very few free moments in the course of a workday and when we do find a few, we oftentimes spend them staring into our devices.
Designing comfortable and relaxing “tech-free zones” where employees are not only allowed to disconnect from their devices, but encouraged to. This will help them momentarily set aside the stress of the 101 other things they have on their mind.
Create Spaces That Allow Employees to Control Their Sensory Stimulation
Think of the sensory triggers that can make work environments feel stressful – even subconsciously. A ringing phone. The noise from a printer. The constant buzz and chatter of an office hard at work. The flickering fluorescent lights. Whatever it may be, these triggers add to an overwhelming mentality that can often accompany an already stressful work day.
Whether an outdoor area that allows them a breath of fresh air or a lounge area away from the hustle and bustle of the office, designing areas that allow employees to control their sensory stimulation means they are able to disconnect from typical office stressors and take a moment to be mindful, regroup and refocus.
Create Spaces That Are Calming
A calming space can be as simple as the materials, textures, colors, lighting and views that it offers. Designing spaces that provide ample natural light can have a calming effect on the mind. A mix of materials – like wood, “green walls” and exposed brick – mixed with comforting colours in décor and the right textiles on furniture can make a designated space into a welcome retreat within the office.
Mindfulness is a skill that must be practiced, developed and honed over time. But ultimately, mindfulness in the workplace is about temporarily moving activity away from the main work point. Designing areas within an office where employees can escape to for some uninterrupted decompression time can boost employee morale and benefit a business’ bottom line as a result.