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What Science Has To Say About Workplace Mindfulness

workplace mindfulness

The Paradox Of State-Based Mindfulness At Work

Contrary to popular belief, workplace mindfulness isn’t always ideal. Depending on the goal, it can be good, bad, or indifferent.

  • Detrimental to Task Motivation. State-based mindfulness is associated with acceptance of one’s situation. In business, however, it’s also important to never give up and be future-oriented. Thus, state-based mindfulness might be detrimental when the situation requires you to push through challenges and make things better.
  • Beneficial for Well-Being. State-based mindfulness is associated with a host of well-being related outcomes. This suggests that state-based mindfulness is ideal for dealing with intense or stressful challenges while at work.
  • Situation-Dependent. Mindfulness is not the ideal state of consciousness for all circumstances. Mindfulness entails being present to a broad array of stimuli. Its conceptual sister, flow, entails being present to a narrow set of stimuli. Flow is actually the better state of consciousness for deep-thinking tasks, while mindfulness is ideal for quick-thinking tasks or interacting with others.

Related: Use Meditation And Journaling To Improve Your Mental Health

The Benefits Of Trait-Based Mindfulness

I’ve collected data on dozens of samples evaluating a wide variety of workplace phenomena and I’m yet to find anything negative about trait-based mindfulness. The same goes for all of the published research in work-specific, peer-reviewed journals. What makes trait-based mindfulness helpful is that it facilitates self-regulation—the capacity to change one’s behavior given one’s awareness of themselves and their circumstances. Below are a few examples from my research.

  • Multi-tasking is thought to be detrimental to our productivity. We experience a “cognitive cost” when switching from one activity to another. My research illustrates that multi-tasking negatively impacts work-life balance and life satisfaction for those that are lower in trait mindfulness. However, multi-tasking positively impacts these outcomes for those that are higher in trait mindfulness.
  • Motivation diminishes across the workweek. We’re recovered and on-task on Mondays, but our focus and energy dwindle as we get closer to Fridays. My research illustrates that this is only the case for those lower in trait mindfulness. For those higher in trait mindfulness, motivation (and performance) stay the same across the workweek.
  • Using devices (e.g., phones, tablets, computers) for nighttime relaxation is thought to be a major culprit in ruining our sleep and next-day productivity. My research illustrates that for those lower in trait mindfulness, device usage indeed leads to bedtime procrastination, and in turn, lower sleep quality and next-day performance. But for those higher in trait mindfulness, device usage relates to psychological detachment (an important form of work recovery), and in turn, better sleep quality and next-day performance.

It’s important to be mindful about workplace mindfulness. Anytime a workplace “revolution” appears we should be interested, yet skeptical. There’s never been a silver-bullet solution to employee ailments. And although workplace mindfulness is incredibly useful, it’s not the holy grail of workplace interventions.

Over the last seven years, I’ve kept an eye on the phenomena and tried to stay patient, waiting for details and clarity. Just like anything else, the devil is in the details. The definition (e.g., state, trait, practice) and dimensionality (e.g., describing, non-reactivity, etc.) of concepts matter. We all benefit when science finally catches up with practice.

Take this Workplace Mindfulness Assessment to see how you compare to your peers.

Mindfulness in the workplace can help relieve anxiety, anxiety, and conflict while also increasing communication among coworkers. Now is the time to learn and imbibe this habit!


Written by: Scott Dust, Ph.D.
Originally appeared on: Psychology Today
Republished with permission
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What Science Has To Say About Workplace Mindfulness
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Scott Dust

Scott Dust, Ph.D., is the Dr. John F. Mee Endowed Assistant Professor of Management at the Farmer School of Business, Miami University (Oxford, OH) and the Chief Research Officer at Cloverleaf, a technology company whose goal is to create amazing teams. His teaching, writing, and consulting focus on evidence-based perspectives for leading oneself (i.e., self-leadership) and others. His research on leadership, leader-follower relationships, power, and influence has appeared in several journals, including the Journal of Applied Psychology, Journal of Organizational Behavior, Leadership Quarterly, and Human Relations, and he is on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Organizational Behavior and Group and Organization Management. Scott is also the creator of an email newsletter titled Resources for Human Capital Enthusiasts, which focuses on providing evidence-based insights and timely perspectives on trends in human capital management.View Author posts