Is mindfulness the key to happiness at work?

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has ranked Australia as the world’s happiest nation for the third year in a row (1). We must be doing something right. Maybe we can maintain that ranking by finding ways to be happy at the place many of us spend so much of our time…at work.

Studies have shown that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind (2), therefore, practicing mindfulness at work to sustain a focused mind may be the key to a happy work life. Mindfulness involves learning to pay attention to the present moment rather than dwelling in the past or worrying about the future.

Here are five small steps you can take right now to assist you in being more mindful at work and therefore happier:

1. Swap multitasking for mindfulness and commit to work on one task for a set period of time.

Due to his extensive studies on multitasking (3). Professor Clifford Nass, researcher at Stanford University, suggests allocating 20 minutes to each task before switching to the next one.

2. Limit how often you check your email to increase focus and reduce stress

Office workers spend an average of 28% of their time reading and answering emails, 19% of their time gathering information, 14% of time communicating internally which leaves only 39% of their time for role-specific tasks. (4)

3. Install a mindfulness bell on your computer or phone

If you’re having trouble focusing at work, consider installing a mindfulness bell on your computer or phone which will chime at a regular interval to remind you to check in with yourself. What is happening in your body and mind? Are your muscles tense or relaxed? Is your mind focused on the task you’re working on or are your thoughts racing? Take a moment to be open and curious about what it is you are doing.

4. Notice the joys at work

‘Celebrate what’s right with the world’ (5). This philosophy is something we can all take into our work places.

Let’s celebrate what’s right with our workplace, and by focussing on what is right, we can use the positive energy we generate to fix what’s wrong with it… to change our workplace, one celebration at a time.

Some simple ways to start noticing and celebrating the joys:

  • Take the time every day to think of one new thing you’re grateful for about your workplace, and celebrate it.
  • Make time for laughter; notice the little absurdities at work and celebrate them rather than letting them annoy you or cause you stress.
  • Celebrate the joys of others at work. If you notice someone celebrating for whatever reason, a great ‘win’ or an accolade from the boss… join them, share the joy.
  • Celebrating joy is contagious, you may notice that before too long, others are celebrating as well.

5. Work life balance

By practicing mindfulness at work and truly doing the best possible job you can in the time you have allocated to it, you will find that you are more skilful and productive in your work and able to complete tasks with clarity. So with this added productivity, do you really have to take work home with you? Bring mindfulness into your home life …and leave work for the workplace.

“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life” William Morris