The week from the 18th to 22nd of November 2013 is National Telework Week. Its broad purpose is to encourage Australians to adopt anywhere working — co-working in an office hub, working from home or a hybrid approach. Research commissioned by Deloitte Access Economics states the benefits of teleworking to improve work/life balance, maximise productivity, and minimise stress due to the removal of distractions from co-workers. Teleworking (or anywhere working) empowers employees with the control to choose how, when and where they work. It results in greater productivity by enabling employees to be more mindful about their tasks, free from office distractions.
The practice of mindfulness originates from Buddhism and in recent times has entered the corporate sphere. Last month, Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh visited global companies to share lessons on connecting to the power of mindfulness and meditation to drive sustainability and happiness . Another modern day mindfulness guru, Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, is internationally known for his work as a scientist, writer, and mindfulness meditation teacher, and is engaged in bringing mindfulness practices into mainstream society. According to Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally. Mindfulness directs the focus on the present moment; a unique form of concentration and self-regulation to focus on the here and now instead of directing attention to the demands of interruption.
Practising mindfulness has been shown in Harvard studies to calm the body and produce a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol. Over time this results in a reduction in the size of grey matter in the part of the brain that regulates emotion. The effects of a regular mindfulness practice in individuals results in significant improvement in cognitive skills – even as little as 5 minutes a day over a month can show changes in brain structure.
Mindfulness focuses on the breath and the task at hand with receding focus on distractions. In Australia, research by the Institute for Broadband Enabled Society notes that employees identified increased feelings of wellbeing with flexible working where there were fewer or no work-related interruptions. Working away from the office really can make us more productive – with more time to think and to get work done without impromptu meetings or co-worker distractions, it is easier to apply mindfulness to tasks.
Even if you are not able to incorporate flexibility into your workplace there are many ways to increase mindfulness into your working day. Intuitive apps and websites such as Smiling Mind or My Diamond Days can deliver mindfulness to you via short meditation practice. One of America’s leading insight meditation teachers Sharon Salzberg says this: “Meditation is the ultimate mobile device; you can use it anywhere, anytime, unobtrusively”. Try and bring some mindfulness into your life. I’d love to hear your experiences.