Exploring How And Why Mindfulness Has Become So Mainstream

This week we will be in attendance as a partner of Mind & Matter 2015 - an event geared entirely to discussing the role of mindfulness in the workplace. It’s quite extraordinary that such has become the level of interest in the role of mindfulness at work, that we will have 2 whole days discussing it’s relevance and role, with up to 200 other delegates. So how exactly has mindfulness become so mainstream, and why now, after over 30 years since it’s inception, with Jon Kabat-Zinn’s foundation of the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programme?

As Chade-Meng Tan, Google’s Jolly Good Fellow, and co-founder of their own mindfulness training programme, Search Inside Yourself, puts it; "If you are a company leader who says employees should be encouraged to exercise, nobody looks at you funny. The same thing is happening to meditation & mindfulness, because now that it's become scientific, it has been demystified. It's going to be seen as fitness for the mind.”

In our opinion, one of the major reasons that this is happening now, is that never have we worked in a time where we are so over-stimulated, ‘always-on’ and incessantly multi-tasking. For many of us, we are waking up to this and searching for respite and escape from the overwhelming sense of being constantly on and unable to unplug. As one of our clients, MEC, put it; ‘We introduced mindfulness at MEC this year to help support our people with a healthy work life blend. We know that the 24/7 life style impacts people in different ways and the practice of mindfulness can help people to switch off from the day to day stresses and focus on the here and now.’

Belinda Freeman is one of the mindfulness experts who we work with to deliver some of our workplace wellbeing programmes and events. In her opinion the increasing role for mindfulness in the workplace is due to the need to find an alternative way of coping with our frantic and over stimulating world. ‘Our world has never been so full of activity and driven. We need new ways to cope. We need to master our choices in life rather than react and be battered as if we were going from one storm to another. Mindfulness offers us tools, peace and calm from the storm’. 

A further factor is the changing attitudes of today’s younger workforce, who are increasingly searching for greater meaning from life, casting off material wealth and traditional career progression in favour of experiences and something far more meaningful. This means they are far less willing to accept the outdated norms of working all hours and dedicating yourself to the office, which means that workplaces are having to re-think the ways to to retain and attract the very best talent, which is no longer just monetary.

In Belinda’s view, ‘mindfulness has been and continues to be researched and developed as a skill for expanding awareness, which can be useful to support problem solving, communication, team cohesion, focus, productivity, resilience and enhance leadership skills in the workplace setting’. With such wide reaching benefits on both a personal and organisational level, it would seem that the role for mindfulness in the workplace is only set to increase. But it’s important to exercise a word of caution, as Belinda puts it ‘mindfulness is not a panacea, it requires individual and organisational responsibility and commitment’, in other words it is not a quick fix or a band aid for deeper rooted organisational issues, and we have a responsibility to advocate it’s usage wisely and ethically.