What is mindfulness?
This free introduction to Mindfulness at Work Toolkit for Healthcare Professionals examines what mindfulness is and how you can begin using it in a healthcare setting. Lets start with what mindfulness is.
Mindfulness is being aware of what is happening as it happens. It describes what happens when we pay attention to our thoughts, feelings and emotions without judging them. Jon Kabat Zinn provides this definition of mindfulness “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” So what does mindfulness at work look like and what are the benefits of a mindful workplace in a healthcare setting?
Mindfulness at Work for Healthcare Professionals
Do you find yourself;
- Missing chunks of what a colleague has just said to you (whilst still nodding your head in agreement)
- Drifting off into your own world during meetings
- Stuck in patterns of negative thinking about work or colleagues or patients
- Often with no recollection of the commute to or from work
- Caught up in a cycle of negative rumination about your workload, colleagues or patients
- Believing that if you increase your hours and take fewer breaks it will make you more productive (research demonstrates it won’t)
- With no time for yourself and poor work life balance
- Ignoring symptoms of stress e.g. feeling tetchy, reduced focus, losing enthusiasm, ploughing through to get things finished and neglecting yourself.
- Resorting to auto pilot to get through the day
What Does Mindfulness at Work Look Like?
Mindfulness at work is being aware of those moments. Noticing. Recognising what we are feeling as we’re feeling it. Being present to our working practices. Disrupting autopilot and bringing our awareness to the present moment.
Workplace mindfulness offers a way to manage the frenetic pace and navigate the constant change in the world of healthcare. With increasing demands being placed on ever stretched healthcare professionals, mindful workplace programmes aim to reduce stress and burnout, build resilience and increase innovation.
The Business Case for Mindfulness at Work in Healthcare
Ever wondered if we are all more stressed than we used to be or are we simply imagining it? It’s true. We are more stressed in the workplace than we were forty years ago. The UK Office for National Statistics Labour Force study reveals that 442000 employees in the UK reported feeling work-related stress at a level that was making them physically ill (HSE 2016/17). In healthcare professions these figures are amplified.
Mindfulness in a Landscape of Change
When you consider financial cuts, organisational change, increasing demands, challenging colleagues, incivility at work, heavy workloads and being constantly connected it comes as no surprise that we’re more stressed than we’ve ever been.
It’s not just stress that presents a problem. The way that we work is changing, affecting organisational culture and working practices. Edward Hallowell, MD describes this new new culture of being pulled in a multitude of different directions as ‘Attention Deficit Trait‘ (ADT). Think of ADT as the enemy of flow. Recent research from the University of California found that we’re distracted on average every three minutes at work. The Wall Street Journal reports that we check our emails on average an astounding 249 times daily. Consider the constant distractions and multiple interruptions during a typical working day in healthcare. These sorts of continuous distractions are associated with a 20% decrease in performance.
Sometimes the way the our workplaces are designed, the cultures that we find ourselves part of work against maintaining resilience. Little wonder our resilience is taking a bashing and we’re feeling stressed out at work.
Alongside the cost to individual wellbeing and work life balance, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development estimates that UK businesses lose a whopping £1800 per employee every year as a result of stress related absenteeism. That’s a pretty hefty price tag both personally and professionally. What if there was another way? Enter the benefits of mindfulness in healthcare – both for individuals and organisations.
ROI and Mindfulness at Work
Most healthcare organisations are acutely aware of the necessity to protect their human capital with robust policies around wellbeing and development. The WHO has now classified burnout as an occupational phenomenon resulting from chronic workplace stress.
Burn-out is defined in ICD-11 as follows:
“Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterized by three dimensions:
- feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion;
- increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and
- reduced professional efficacy.
Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life.”
Mindfulness as a Stress Management Intervention
The the Mindful Nation UK Report (MAPPG, 2015) outlines the benefits of mindfulness at work. Many sectors, including healthcare, are embracing mindfulness as a strategy to reduce stress and create more sustainable performance. We’ve delivered mindfulness at work training in the UK and internationally with positive results that have enabled effective stress management and burnout reduction. Organisations like Google, Spotify, Aetna, the NHS, Transport for London, UK Parliament and US Congress are all recognising the benefits of mindfulness at work programmes. Mindfulness workplace research is slowly building a body of evidence to support the provision of workplace mindfulness as a mainstream practice.
Is Mindfulness a Sticking Plaster?
You may be wondering if mindfulness is a sticking plaster, an excuse not to address systemic issues that add to individual stress and burnout. Will Davies, author of the Happiness Industry says “Rather than removing the source of stress, whether that’s unfeasible workloads, poor management or low morale, some employers encourage their staff to meditate: a quick fix that’s much cheaper, at least in the short term.” To be clear, we do not recommend this as an approach.
Change by Stealth
Such approaches are rarely effective, however change by stealth might be an unintended consequence. A pilot study with call centre agents in Germany reported that employees became more aware of “problematic situations in the workplace conducive to stress” (Walach et al., 2007, p. 197). The consequence? Employees became more engaged in changing working conditions or considered leaving. It goes without saying then, that healthcare organisations who adopt a blended approach to stress management, resilience and sustainable performance are more successful.
The Benefits of Mindfulness at Work
Increasingly mindfulness at work benefits are being empirically evidenced to result in improved outcomes for employees and organisations. Whilst further research is needed, corporate mindfulness benefits are;
- Lower stress
- Greater resilience
- Increase wellbeing
- Reduced reactivity
- Improved memory recall
- Reduced cognitive bias
- Greater self awareness
- Improved employee engagement
- Team cohesion
- Greater emotional intelligence
- Improved performance
- Improved focus
- Enhance productivity
- Boost creativity and innovation
- Reduced absenteeism
Mindfulness at Work Videos
Here’s the Introduction to Mindfulness at Work Toolkit for Healthcare Professionals top pick of mindfulness at work videos.
Mirabai Bush, Mindfulness at work advisor to Google on Mindfulness at Work
Dan Harris, 10% Happier, on mindfulness applications at work
Regina Chow, Using mindfulness to deal with everyday pressures
Introduction to Mindfulness at Work Toolkit for Healthcare Professionals: 5 Strategies for Practicing Mindfulness at Work
Wondering how to practice mindful working? At work meditation techniques don’t need to be complicated. Here are some simple tips to practice mindfulness in a healthcare setting. These short, informal mindfulness practices will help you to create the for daily mindfulness at work.
Create regular mindfulness breaks.
- Set a timer, either using an app or an alarm to remind you to create a mindful break. Try using post it notes or alerts as prompts to pause periodically during the day with no agenda. Use this time to disrupt your habitual patterns, moving out of doing mode to being mode. We know that healthcare is fast paced, but even a minute scattered throughout your day will start to make a difference. Start where you are.
- When you’re communicating with a colleague or presents be fully present. Direct your attention to how it feels to listen. Notice the non verbal behaviour of the person that you are speaking to, their posture, gestures. Really focus on the tone of their voice. What are they really saying? Notice how it feels to listen (and be listened to) this way.
Self Inquiry Meditation.
- Create space in your day to check in with how you are feeling. Make yourself comfortable. Notice how you are feeling, what’s happening in your body and mind? What do you notice? How is your day? Bring awareness to the present moment. Continue your day with renewed intention to manage your energy levels in a way that serves you well.
- This is a great practice to step outside of automatic pilot. Bring your focus to your breathing. Notice the sensations as you breathe in and as you exhale, the rise and fall of your chest, the sensation of cool air around your nostrils as you inhale. If you find that your mind wanders in this 60 seconds, it’s ok. Notice the distraction without judgement and bring your focus back to your breath. Then you’re ready finish the practice.
5 Mindful Senses Practice.
- This is a super quick practice to bring your awareness to the present moment and develop focus in less than 30 seconds. Notice 5 things that you can see, hear, feel, smell and taste.
Want to Know More About Mindfulness at Work Research?
Ask us about ‘Bullet Proof 9 to 5ers’ our research into the impact of an 8 week mindfulness at work programme on resilience, emotional intelligence and compassion. Our mindfulness for healthcare professionals resources will keep you up to date with the latest research in this area.
Introduction to Mindfulness at Work Toolkit for Healthcare Professionals: Incorporating Mindfulness at Work
For more Mindfulness for healthcare professionals strategies get in touch, we’d love to hear from you. We work internationally delivering mindfulness at work programmes, our clients include the NHS, UK Sport, Spotify, the V&A, Natural History Museum, Insure the Box and the Bonington Leadership Programme amongst others. We offer bitesize, one day, two day and 6 week mindfulness at work training programmes as online resilience training for doctors. Contact us for more information