Many L&D leaders have likely heard how important mindfulness is in today’s 24/7, “go-go-go” world. Information is everywhere, with podcasts, books, news features, the internet, television and smartphones making it easy to become overwhelmed.

Overwhelmed and stressed employees typically do not perform as well as they could. Multiple research studies indicate that stress can cost hundreds of billions of dollars in lost productivity and expenses incurred due to stress-related illness and employee absenteeism. Mindfulness is one way to work toward reducing stress, and it can have the added benefit of increasing learning retention.

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present – aware of where you are and what you’re doing – while avoiding over-reactive responses or feelings of being overwhelmed due to what’s going on around you. Individuals who practice mindfulness are typically more resilient and more productive. They can face, manage and bounce back from challenging difficulties that occur in the workplace. Their job satisfaction levels are usually higher than those who do not practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness is often confused with meditation, which causes some people, especially in the professional world, to dismiss it. Meditation is to mindfulness as chocolate chips are to cookies. You can certainly make a delicious cookie without chocolate chips, and you can achieve a mindful state without meditation. Chocolate chips and meditation are simply options for you to choose from as you work toward your ultimate goal of mindfulness.

The ability to focus on a task; being mindful of completing that task with accuracy, quality and above expectations; and feeling satisfied and fulfilled when the task is complete are good outcomes to have in the workplace. Mindfulness is an important skill for everyday work life. For instance:

  • Staying focused despite what’s happening in the cube next to yours (e.g., someone is crunching celery, typing is louder than usual or has a nagging cough).
  • Staying focused while working on a big project that is due tomorrow instead of ruminating over the cookies you have to bake tonight for your child’s school bake sale.
  • Staying focused on the production floor, including following safety guidelines and not taking any shortcuts.

Mindfulness has even greater potential if it’s applied when learning is taking place. In a 2014 article in the “Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine,” researchers reported that “mindfulness relieves stress and increases resiliency.” Learners with lower stress levels and higher resiliency are able to focus on content, and their brains are able to absorb, synthesize and retain the information. This higher retention and corresponding application of knowledge improve training ROI.

What Does Mindful Learning Look Like?

Incorporating mindfulness principles into learning can occur with the facilitator, the developer, the learner or all three.

As a facilitator, you can enhance your training by incorporating mindfulness concepts prior to, during and after delivery:

  • Maintain awareness of your breathing as you deliver the training.
  • Be fully present during the training; don’t allow your thoughts to wander.
  • Remain open to experiences.
  • Create an accepting and inviting environment for the learners (consider the lighting, sounds, temperature and materials).

As a content developer, it’s important to keep your learners’ experience top of mind; they need to retain and apply their new knowledge when they’re back on the job. Using mindfulness techniques can enhance and close current gaps between learning and application:

  • Allow time for reflection and quiet.
  • When possible, incorporate breathing or stretching activities.

Skillful training involves deliberately placing ourselves in the role of the learner and reflecting on the experience of how learners confront difficult and intimidating content. Science shows that mindfulness can play a contributing part in developing balanced employees who are more likely to deliver desired business outcomes.

Want to learn more about incorporating mindfulness into your training? Come to TICE 2019, and attend Gennifer and Ellena’s session.