Mindfulness and Happiness in the Workplace
Inc., Adam Fridman
June 21, 2017

What’s the connection between mindfulness, emotional intelligence and happiness in the workplace? Or is there a connection?

Let’s start by defining terms.

  • Mindfulness is the state of being aware or conscious of what is happening within and around you. Research indicates that mindfulness is a tool that can improve focus and attention, help break disruptive behavior patterns and emotions that may make workers less productive.
  • Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions as well as those of others. It’s also the ability to understand what motivates others to action. In today’s business world, emotionally intelligent leadership is crucial to establishing a purposeful workplace culture. “Mindful Leadership is about creating a work environment where ego battles aren’t interfering with goals of the organization,” explains Pandit Dasa, Mindful Leadership Expert and Founder of Conscious Living. “It’s a culture where the leadership is regularly appreciating the workforce and the same is encouraged on a peer level. Communication is carried out with compassion and empathy and individuals are trained to become aware of and balance their emotions for more thoughtful interactions.”
  • Happiness in the workplace, on the other hand, is a bit more difficult to define. Your happiest workers may not be your most productive, and vice versa. Perhaps in the context of the workplace, a better term might be engagement or satisfaction with individual and organizational purpose.

Each of these relate to engagement, which in turn relates to purpose. And each can affect your business in ways you may not even recognize. Consider these statistics from Gallup. They’ve been tracking employee engagement for several years. Among their findings:

  • 70% of American workers are disengaged at work.
  • Only 21% of employees feel that they are managed in a motivating way.
  • Engaged business units are 21% more profitable.

Mindfulness, emotional intelligence and happiness may not be the the same thing as engagement, but they are related concepts. Engaged people may not always be happy, but they have a sense of satisfaction about what they do and are often willing to work harder, making your business more profitable.

But how do they become engaged? Mindfulness is one way – it can help people connect their individual actions and purpose with the purpose of the organization. And emotional intelligence is the leadership quality that’s required for managers and executives to help employees become more mindful, purpose-driven and engaged so that they can – you guessed it – be happy.

So, where do we start? How can you change your company’s culture to build these three components of an engaged workplace culture? Here are a few ideas.

Purpose Before Paycheck

Purpose is a key driver of not just employee engagement but of engagement with your brand in general. Engagement is all about emotional and psychological connections with a brand, product or company. In its study of customer engagement, Gallup found that engaged customers were worth 23% more in terms of wallet share, profitability, revenue and relationship growth than those who were less engaged. Likewise, engaged employees report higher levels of job satisfaction and are easier to retain.

We can engage employees by creating a shared sense of purpose. Says best-selling author, business leader and humanitarian Marilyn Tam, “Companies today are aware that disengagement is a problem and are focused on creating purpose and meaning in the workplace. We have to start thinking about the connections between purpose, values and the profit motive.”

Michelle Gielan, founder of the Institute for Applied Positive Research and best-selling author of Broadcasting Happiness, agrees. She works with organizations on building a positive culture based research around the development of positive habits.

“Organizations are changing, responding to data coming out of positive psychology that shows that by increasing workplace happiness, you can increase productivity by 31% and increase sales by 37%,” says Gielan. “Organizations of the future will put a large emphasis on personal growth, remembering that workers are human. They need to feel a sense of engagement, passion for the purpose their role and the organization are trying to fulfill, in order to feel that their work matters.”

Mindfulness of What Matters

One area of personal and professional growth where many organizations are focusing, is mindfulness and mindful leadership. “We live in an era of continuous partial attention,” says Janice Marturano, Founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Mindful Leadership, and best selling author of Finding the Space to Lead. Our brains grow accustomed to being on autopilot and that leads to disengagement.

“We are surrounded and impacted every day by the things that distract us. We have to re-learn how to pay attention to what matters,” says Marturano. “And we need to train our minds to take what I call ‘purposeful pauses’-mini-mindfulness breaks-to step off autopilot and to be more focused, clear, and creative. – This training helps people get focused on what matters so they can make reflective rather than reactive choices.” One of those areas of choice are individual’s values. Organizations can’t tell workers what their values should be, but we can use the reflections of mindful leadership training to help people identify their values and tap into the purpose that they share with their colleagues and the organization.

But why the sudden focus on mindfulness? Amy Blankson, co-founder of GoodThink, says “the lines are blurring between work and home, school and play. Creating a separation between work and home is very difficult. Flexible scheduling sounds great but for most people the reality is that they are actually working more – logging in after kids go to bed, or before families wake up, as a sort of payback for time not spent in the office.”

Mindfulness allows workers to implement boundaries that help them focus on what’s most important, balancing their use of technology and the tyranny of the urgent that can accompany it, with their human needs.

Leading with Emotional Intelligence

Another important component of employee engagement is emotionally intelligent leadership. Bill Benjamin, an emotional intelligence, performance and leadership expert and partner at Institute for Health and Human Potential, says that “emotional intelligence is thinking under pressure about how to motivate and inspire people to do their best work.”

It takes emotional intelligence to understand what’s standing in the way of engagement. “Are employees stressed out? What are they doing? How are they feeling?” asks Benjamin. “Leaders need to understand the answers to those questions so they can help to inspire, educate and initiate change in the culture of an organization.”

Emotionally intelligent leaders understand that people need to make a connection with the organization’s purpose and be mindful so they can carry it out. Says Benjamin, “awareness and meditation – mindfulness – are ways for leaders to establish habits that are effective in helping them to manage their own emotions and stress and to help others cope with theirs.”

So, what’s the connection between mindfulness, emotional intelligence and happiness in the workplace? The connection is engagement with purpose – mindfulness and emotional intelligence are effective ways to support workplace engagement. And if employees are passionate and engaged with purpose, happiness – for employees, managers and customers – may just be the result.