Mindfulness – an unhelpful cliché that misses the point

Mindfulness and the broader topic of employee well-being has swept onto the development agenda over the last couple of years.  In its wake are thousands of managers frantically trying to jump on the bandwagon.

Happier employees work harder, stay longer and deliver better results.  A study in December concluded that “Happiness seems to motivate greater effort, increasing output without affecting its quality and thus boosting productivity”.

Mindfulness, strictly speaking, is a form of meditation.  If that makes you happy then great, but recognise that the things that make others happy are many and varied.  A run in a city in the morning when the sun is coming up makes me happy.  Variety in my work and certainty about the future also makes me happy.  For an employer who gives me all three I’ll work harder and stay longer!

The issue with the ‘mindfulness’ cliché is that it risks turning employee happiness and well-being into a fad.  The most successful organisations have been investing in employee well-being for years, and they’ll continue to do so once ‘mindfulness’ disappears from the front pages of the newspapers.

The majority of organisations however will jump on the ‘mindfulness’ bandwagon, throw a bit of money at someone who will demonstrate meditation techniques, be disappointed at the results, declare it a failure and contribute to the decline of employee well-being as an area of focus.

If you really want to make the people in your team happy, try understanding what motivates them and then working with them to make practical changes to the work environment.

That’s not ‘mindfulness’, it’s good leadership.

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