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'Tis the Season for Mindfulness: 3 Ways to De-stress at Work

HR Column
A s the year draws to a close and the holidays approach, this is a great time for employers to give some thought to mindfulness. Throughout the year, many workers around the world experience stress in the workplace. According to the World Health Organization, depression is among the leading causes of disability worldwide. Fewer than 25 percent of those with depression have access to effective treatments. The Global Organization for Stress reports the following statistics:

  • 91 percent of Australian adults report experiencing stress in at least one important area of their lives. Stress-related absences in Australia average 3.2 working days per employee per year, costing the Australian economy approximately US$14.2 billion;
  • In 2007/2008 approximately 442,000 British residents believed work-related stress was making them ill. Work-related illness costs the United Kingdom an estimated 13.7 million working days and £28.3 billion per year; and,
  • 80 percent of American workers report experiencing stress at work and nearly 50 percent would like help in learning how to manage stress.  

What is mindfulness?

According to, mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we're doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what's going on around us. Heading into the holidays, there is no better time to be intentional about mindfulness.

[Related: How to Become a Mindful Lawyer]

This is the time of year when the ambient level stress of the regular work year is accelerated by travel, coping with family, surviving loneliness, and all the other challenges that the holidays can bring. Employers can take steps to encourage workers to practice mindfulness and better manage stress.

Mindfulness methods  

Meditation rooms

Consider a meditation room. It doesn't have to be extravagant. It can be a small room in a quiet corner with some mood lighting and calming pictures. You can throw on Spotify or Pandora so employees can play Zen music while they take time out of the workday to relax. From a simple nook to a lavishly furnished room with couches and pillows, employers can develop a quiet space on any budget.

Encourage breaks

Corporate culture plays a significant role in the level of stress employees experience. Organizations that worship excessive work hours, unrelenting connectedness to the workplace, and belittle sleep are more likely to have employees who experience higher levels of stress.

[Related: 5 Habits of Successful Professionals]

This in turn increases illness, absenteeism, inattention, and diminishes productivity and effectiveness. Creating a culture that values mindfulness takes time. When employees are encouraged to take breaks to reconnect with themselves — and even take brief naps — productivity and effectiveness can increase.

Bring in the yogi

One study found that 35 percent of employers offer mindfulness classes or training, and 26 percent more are considering adding such programs in the future. This growing trend demonstrates the increasing number of employers who recognize the emotional and physical benefits of mindfulness that translate into increased job satisfaction and higher productivity.

Mindfulness training uses exercises designed to increase self-awareness and focus on the present. These exercises include various forms of yoga, meditation, visualization, and breathing exercises.

Benefits of mindfulness

Mindfulness can induce a state of relaxation and the state of being present in the moment. In this moment, you can only focus on what you are doing — rather than worrying about what did or didn't happen yesterday, or what may or may not happen tomorrow. A simple mantra like "This one thing I do," can help maintain concentration on accomplishing one task at a time. Benefits of mindfulness include:

  • Decreased stress and anxiety;
  • More efficient brain function;
  • Increased immune function;
  • Lower blood pressure;
  • Lower, steady heart rate;
  • Increased awareness;
  • Greater sense of connectedness;
  • Increased sense of calm and stillness;
  • Improved concentration and focus; and,
  • Greater clarity in thinking and perception.

[Related: The Work-Life Balance Paradox] (PDF)

Aetna, Apple, Facebook, General Mills, Goldman Sachs, Google, Intel, Nike, and Twitter are just some of the large companies that incorporate various mindfulness programs and training in the workplace. Some of them include formal classes and dedicated meditation rooms. If your employer has not caught on yet, you can begin your own personal mindfulness initiative by trying these six techniques.

About the Author

Spiwe L. JeffersonSpiwe L. Jefferson is general counsel of ChristLight Productions Ltd., LLC, Patron Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, and board secretary and legal advisor to The BrandLab. She is a member of the ACC employment and labor, law department management, and litigation networks.

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