There is a lot of discussion these days about mindfulness at work and how it can help people do their jobs better. Companies of all sizes are reporting positive results from mindfulness initiatives. What is mindfulness anyway? What are the benefits? Can it help make learning stick?
There are many definitions of mindfulness and they all involve “going within” to reflect on awareness, which in turn strengthens attention, thinking, memory, and emotion.
Research studies show benefits of mindfulness in these areas related to job performance:
Attention. Paying attention (not allowing the mind to wander) and directing attention to certain activities and away from others. This makes for more efficient use of a person’s time and cognitive resources thinking.
Thinking. Practicing mindfulness increases working memory (“cognitive capacity”), which is the short term memory we use to retrieve information especially when learning something new. It also improves flexibility in thinking, allowing people to adapt knowledge to new situations.
Emotion. Mindfulness practice speeds recovery from negative emotions, allowing for more objective appraisal of experiences.
One study of many large organizations reported a 25 percent increase in productivity, a 35 percent decrease in stress, and a 31 percent increase in collaboration skills. These benefits translate into more effective workplace relationships including supervisor-employee, leadership, and on teams.
Traits influenced by mindfulness can be learned, unlike most aspects of cognition and intelligence. While there aren’t any research studies specifically on mindfulness and learning transfer, the links with learning and application of learning are clear. Mindfulness training can help participants:
Pay attention to the learning, whether instructor-led, or self-paced. This results in higher levels of learning and retention.
Learn concepts and skills better with fewer required drills and repeats needed.
Apply class learning to on-the-job experiences/needs/uses.
Here are some ideas for how mindfulness can be introduced in new or existing training to make it stick:
Incorporate mindfulness techniques into existing wellness classes: yoga, meditation, martial arts.
Introduce a mindfulness series of stand-alone classes for developing mindfulness. Experts suggest avoiding the “one shot” short classes as they are not likely to produce lasting behavior change. Instead, the training should be shorter, about 60 minutes, 5-10 sessions, over several months.
Incorporate mindfulness techniques at various points in existing instructor-led or self-paced training on any topic: at the beginning, during, and at the end of the training.
Include intermittent prompts or reminders in the training. Examples of mindfulness prompts would be: Take a moment and breathe deeply; Stop for a moment and re-center yourself; Am I paying attention to this training material? Our Planning and Prompting Sticky Note has more information about intermittent prompts.
Outside of training, use technology such as email, IM, or text messages to remind employees to take a “minute of silence” or “breathing breaks” to reflect and go within.
The important thing to remember here is this approach will not appeal to everyone, but for those who begin using mindfulness practices can help make training stick better and have significant benefits for your organization.
Until next time…