In some circles these days, one of the buzziest of buzzwords is mindfulness. The simplest definition: the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis. So, you know, basically paying attention.

It’s actually a little more than that – paying purposeful attention, in the present moment and non-judgmentally. These days, paying attention to the people we are with and the place and moment we are in is something so many struggle with. Our busy lives and always-on technology that keeps us connected to the outside world are just two of the reasons this kind of awareness eludes people.

While on the personal level it’s often discussed as a way to reduce stress, the concept of mindfulness has caught on in the corporate world. Mindfulness training for employees and building mindful leadership. The reason is simple. Businesses are benefiting from having mindful employees and leaders. A 2014 report from the UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School found that for employees, practicing mindfulness:

  • Reduces absenteeism and turnover
  • Improves concentration, memory, and learning ability
  • Increases productivity
  • Enhances employer/employee and client relationships
  • Improves job satisfaction

The study also indicated that leaders had improved engagement with and attention to employees. General Mills has a mindfulness training program and found that 80% of senior leaders who participated in the training experienced a positive change in their ability to make better decisions, and 89% said there were better listeners.

Aetna estimates that their mindfulness course, taken by thousands of employees, has resulted in an average gain of 62 minutes per week of productivity (about $3,000 per year) per employee – due to reduced stress levels and pain, and improved sleep.

It would be hard to argue that these qualities – ability to make better decisions, being a better listener, being more productive – are anything other than positive outcomes for the businesses involved. Though I wish I could find independent, third-party research results that show the hard numbers for these changes.

Mindful leaders are able to give employees their full attention and listen more patiently, they are more fully present and manage their own stress, which improves their energy, creativity, and innovativeness. Check out these three behaviors of mindful leadership, and it’s pretty clear they can make a difference in the workplace:

  1. Leaders with mindfulness training remain focused when people are speaking to them.
  2. Mindful leaders make thoughtful decisions, and are able to better assess options and make clearheaded, non-judgmental choices
  3. Mindfulness enables leaders to empower their team members by their trust in them.

Leaders who are able to practice mindfulness, and pay purposeful, non-judgmental attention to their colleagues and employees help shape a workplace better able to focus – on the work at hand and the mental health of their employees.