mindfulness in the workplace

Today I was prepping notes for a Mindfulness session at an advertising agency, and found myself thinking about how mindfulness for employees is only half the equation. It is tremendous this business is having me in to do a series spanning physical and mental wellness at work, meditation for creativity, mindfulness, etc, because it signals that the bosses are willing to act mindfully. With some ad agency experience in my past, I can tell you they are unique. It is not often a culture that encourages detachment from email or desk. The premise of mindfulness could be viewed as threatening to productivity if bosses see mindfulness and meditation as simply actively choosing to do less. As much as I can offer their employees some tools, the initiative has to come from the top to see a culture of mindfulness and wellness as choosing to focus on less and allocate attention and ultimately do everything with less stress and improved clarity and creativity.

I’m reminded of a scenario where an old boss stopped by my desk en route to the free Starbucks coffee (a ploy that kept us in the office, because then why would you need to leave?). He passed by, stopped, backed up, and tapped my desk to ask me how long I felt lunch should be. Having taken a long, stress-relieving lunch with a couple of kind employees (in the midst of a race-to-the-bottom, stressful workplace), I shared that I imagined it was okay in light of working until 9 pm most evenings that week. He sighed and said, “you know how things look though”. 

Especially if you’re a leader and decision-maker in your workforce, consider why you’re doing things the way you are. If it’s “just because” that’s how everyone else has done it for time immemorial, that’s not a good enough or compelling reason to continue it. You will not motivate your employees if you’re creating a workplace that is merely an interruption to their lives outside work. If that is where their wellness resides, where they feel seen and heard, they may put more energy into that time rather than work. 

Wellness programs at work are proven to improve loyalty, including reducing turnover and absenteeism. If people feel invested in, they will invest, but they have to be allowed to actively cultivate a reserve of energy. That means creating a workspace where people do not escape to feel rejuvenated, but are offered the tools and atmosphere to create a sense of spaciousness, authenticity and ownership of their well-being and community within their workspace.

Providing a meditation room isn’t enough, because they may not have the skills necessary to utilize the space productively. Programs and courses are often created to teach employees new company software, and they should be extended to help employees live more connected, healthier lives.

You can start with these two Mindfulness Suggestions…

Workplace Distraction Audit

Conduct an internal and external audit of your workplace. The goal is to identify what elements of your workplace enhance or hinder your ability or your team’s ability to complete work.

For a day, keep a log to note times you were in the work flow (going well) and times you were not (distracted) and what was happening at the time.


10 – 11 am Flow – Creative team in meeting, uninterrupted space to answer emails

11 – 11:30 – Distracted – Bad email from Mom

11:30 – 12 pm – Distracted – Jeff wanted to unload about uselessness of Creative team meeting and didn’t take the hint

You can then choose to strategize as to how to set yourself and your team up for success. Maybe they need noise-cancelling headphones, or you need to set up team meetings with space for tone-setting at the beginning.

You need breaks within your day, but you will feel so much more ease and calm if you choose when your breaks are rather than having them thrust upon you by other people.

Implement Conscious Breathing or Mindfulness Meditation times into your day at specific times to help create a ritual.

Personal Mindfulness Practices for Work

Your life is a mindfulness practice and you can cultivate this rewarding and healing characteristic at any moment. All you need to do is be aware of what is happening...

Close all your computer programs, even email, when you leave your desk for lunch.

Start a gratitude journal that you open or close your work day with by writing down three entries of things you’re grateful for.

Choose not to multi-task (you’re bad at it, anyway). Eat your food without distraction. Put your phone away and choose not to look at it for stretches of time.

Notice when you are planning on what you’re going to say next rather than listening.

If you’re someone who dominates meetings, actively seek other perspectives, especially from those who aren’t actively sharing.