Alternate Pathways to Mindfulness in the Workplace

Alternate Pathways to Mindfulness in the Workplace

Mindfulness is worth pursuing in organisations due to the benefits to employee health and well-being as well as improving work effectiveness. Daniel Goleman, who co-authored The Science of Meditation, identified four neural networks that mindfulness meditation transforms: stress and recovery, compassion and empathy, attention, and a sense of self. This points to numerous opportunities in which mindfulness can be employed to positively impact on well-being and performance.

As a result of this evidence many organisations have established programs to support employees undertaking mindful meditation during breaks and after work. Daniel Goleman refers to this as the ‘deep pathway’. This is where mindful meditation is practiced regularly in a more structured way.

But that approach doesn’t work for everyone. Studies have shown that behaviours that elicit soon, certain and positive feedback are more likely to be adopted and become habits. So with the ‘deep pathway’ the benefits may happen progressively (not soon), there can be skepticism that meditation makes any difference at all (not certain), and the novice may initially struggle as the practice may feel uncomfortable or unworkable (not a positive experience).

An alternative approach focuses on the practical application of mindfulness techniques as employees go about their day. Goleman refers to this as the ‘wide pathway’. Implementing a ‘wide pathway’ approach can be more attractive for employees because they can see the link between being mindful and immediate and positive results – soon, certain and positive.

Given that there are significant benefits to introducing mindfulness to the workplace, ensuring it is presented in an accessible and integrated way, and not as an additional thing to do in an already overcrowded schedule is important. The following perspectives may help guide your efforts to pursue mindfulness as a healthy, business improvement practice by utilising the ‘wide pathway’.

Work with People’s Hearts AND Minds – People generally want to understand the science and the evidence that supports mindfulness as well the practical ways that mindfulness can be practiced. Knowing that mindfulness is not only undertaken through a regular meditation practice, but can also be integrated in daily activities to reduce stress and anxiety and improve effectiveness can be in itself motivating

Provide Options for Practical Application – Identify opportunities for mindful practice throughout the day that link to breaks, pre meeting preparation or as a prelude to difficult conversations. This can provide the soon, certain and positive reinforcement that is needed for people to repeat and embed mindfulness as a habit

Build a ‘some is better than none’ Mantra –  Mindfulness practice is like exercise – some is better than none – and in the same way that taking the opportunity to exercise when you can is useful and beneficial, so too is taking a few minutes for mindfulness as the opportunities emerge in the daily routine

Frame Mindfulness as an Enabler – Make mindfulness a systemic and ongoing part of personal development in your organisation. By framing mindfulness as an enabler of other leadership and personal development programs, it will be viewed as a support system for people in their desire to make behavioural changes. Mindfulness insights and techniques can help leaders understand and overcome habits and avoidance that prevent them from enacting the behaviours that are critical to making the changes needed to continuously learn and grow

Organisations are more and more starting to recognise the benefits and opportunities of introducing mindfulness into the workplace. Developing a strategy and taking small but definite steps can provide employees with a positive experience in a relatively short period of time. Remember it’s not just one pathway to success.

Author: Graeme ByeMay 23, 2018


Graeme Bye is an organisational psychologist with a background in corporate organisations in HR and Leadership Development.

He coaches individuals and teams and includes mindfulness practices and techniques to improve effectiveness, manage stress and achieve focus.