What is mindfulness actually?

People who are mindful take in things around them and do this consciously, making no judgment based on their own thoughts, physiological effects, or feelings. According to mindfulness coaches, this is an ability that can be consciously trained. Meditation exercises make up an important part of this process.

Mindfulness – more or less defined as being aware of your own thoughts and feelings – is based on the traditions of Buddhism. The underlying assumption is that human intellect is in constant flux, so that everything a person perceives is judged according to their experiences.

On the one hand, this is a necessity; processing things in our mind helps us to understand our perceptions, which is useful when making decisions. But on the other, this can lead to added stress and become too much for some people, especially when things get frantic at work due to the hundreds of emails, smartphone notifications, or meetings.

Corporate efforts to promote mindfulness

Some companies offer employees free training on mindfulness. The aim is to bolster people’s ability to manage their feelings and raise motivation.

Then there are examples of companies that put rooms aside for employees to meet up once a week and meditate together, do breathing exercises, and hone their ability to perceive each moment.

Numerous other big corporations, as well as a growing number of small and medium-sized businesses, have now discovered the virtues of mindfulness and are offering special staff training or support groups.

This is all well and good, but in the ideal world mindfulness training is not just about running seminars or offering meditation groups. It is also about dealing with the work situations people encounter every day. This could be in form of an agreement that staff should only check their emails three times a day. And going through messages after work or on the weekend is strongly discouraged.

Mindfulness is a challenge to any company culture

And this brings us on to one of the key points. Mindfulness has to be practiced and applied regularly if it is going to have a lasting effect, not only at work but also outside of the workplace. Offering occasional training is simply not going far enough.

If companies do want to offer mindfulness training, their aim should be to change things for the better in the long term. Because old habits die hard and established routines are difficult to change, this can only truly work if mindful behavior and attitudes become an integral and integrated part of company culture.

  • If only a small number of people are practicing mindfulness at work, it might ease the load for certain individuals.
  • But many of the problems teams are grappling with are actually caused by work structures.

Mindfulness: For Managers and for the Team

Mindfulness is also the responsibility of managers because the whole concept is still sometimes seen as something esoteric. Bosses should therefore lead by example to counteract such concerns.

That said, mindfulness trainers also have concerns and point out that if managers are only using such methods to raise productivity, they are missing the point. Mindfulness is about helping individuals deal more consciously with pressure at work, while helping the company as a whole.

There is one important benefit when mindfulness is applied properly at companies. Once they have had training together, employees can keep reminding themselves- and each other- about the different ways to deal consciously with their own performance (and limitations), even in everyday situations.

One positive experience reported by some businesses is that it is good to share a quick moment to meditate together before meetings. It is believed that this serves to better equip individuals to deal with one another and are lead to sharper focus in two-way interaction.


Mindfulness at Work

So, what is the best way to apply the concepts behind mindfulness in the workplace? Here are some examples to provide inspiration:

1. Focus on individual tasks

This one sounds patently obvious, but if you are inundated by a constant stream of emails every day, you already know how difficult it is to get things done. Try to focus on just one thing at a time- the thing that has your attention right now. When you are on the phone or in a meeting, do not run through your to-do list in your mind, read memos or go through emails, and do not start flicking through your smartphone.

2. Spend more time offline

This is similar to the first point because it is about eliminating attention-grabbers. If you are in a meeting, switch off your smartphone. Or better, how about not taking it with you in the first place? Also make a clean cut between work time and leisure time. Get into the habit of not checking work emails after working hours or on the weekend. This may mean you will have to deactivate email normally forwarded to your cell phone.

3. Take in your surroundings – consciously!

There are so many things in everyday life we simply fail to notice. Give it a try: If you are on your way to work, instead of trying to take in the headlines or staring at your smartphone, consciously focus on the things around you. What can you hear? What can you smell? What do you start to notice if, for once, you walk more slowly or take a quick detour? What is important here is that you only register what is around you and what you perceive within you – do not judge anything. Otherwise you will soon get bogged down by old behavioral patterns and become distracted, even by trivial matters.

Go the extra mile: mindful lunches

This is another example of Silicon Valley showing us how it is done, especially the search engine giant, Google. Once a month, people working on the company campus eat lunch in silence. This has become a popular way to calm the mind and cultivate a corporate culture of innovative thinking.

Download mindfulness in an app

Meanwhile, a number of app developers have sniffed out a business opportunity in mindfulness. That is not necessarily a bad thing, and whether you will find their apps useful depends what sort of person you are. The apps are probably not the same as receiving proper training under professional supervision, however. Despite this, these apps may make it easier for beginners to get into meditation or can help them establish more of a routine with certain exercises. Here is a selection of apps that are currently available:


This app offers the calming benefits of the sounds of nature like raindrops or waves against a background of meditation music. Each session lasts between two and sixty minutes.


The aim of this app is to provide support with meditation and mindfulness. It even offers courses that are subsidized by many German health insurances.


An app that provides users with an introduction to meditation, so it is (partly) targeted at beginners. According to its developers, regular practice with this app will help you with your emotions and improve your spirits.

Mindfulness: focusing on R&R, not efficiency

Whether the preferred means involves apps or mindfulness training organized by the company, the chosen method has to be applied regularly in order to deliver. The best-case scenario would be to involve as many co-workers as possible in a corporate culture of attentiveness, although it might be easier to start by concentrating on a smaller group of people- likely co-workers within the same team.

The exercises and recommendations themselves often seem simple enough, but it is correspondingly difficult to change established routines into new habits.

It is imperative for managers to lead by example if they want mindfulness to become part and parcel of everyday working life within their organizations.

Furthermore, it is critical that the methods they choose are not perceived as a means to an end for improving efficiency, but as a genuine desire to help employees improve their well-being-mutually beneficial for the company. Otherwise, companies may well find out what else happens when employees become more self-aware – they simply go and find another job, one that is less stressful.