Business strategy: Why mindfulness matters in the workplace

by AB20 Feb 2016
Mindfulness has been a core theme in the leadership programs at law firm Herbert Smith Freehills for more than 10 years, according to Murray Paterson, head of learning and development at HSF.
“It was a small element back then, but we talked about it as fundamental to building leadership capabilities,” said Paterson.
He explained that through mindfulness, employees learn how to focus their attention and think clearly, which is fundamentally important for any leader.
Consequently, HSF introduced mindfulness at other levels of the firm including junior leadership programs, and made it a much bigger feature.
These days, HSF run weekly mindfulness sessions for anyone who wants to drop in, and online recordings of guided mindfulness.
“We are running a six-week program and that requires a weekly hour and a half session learning how to work more effectively in the office,” said Paterson.
The program also requires 10 minutes a day of guided practice following a recording.

“It’s the mental equivalent of going to the gym," Paterson added.
In the last 14 months approximately 200 employees at HSF have experienced the mindfulness program.
“It’s having a big impact on people’s behaviour at work, and they say the most extraordinary things about the difference it is making to how they relate to their teams,” said Paterson.
He said that it's not just positively impacting how they relate to their supervisors, but also their partners, family and friends.”
Some of the results from the six-week program include:
  • A 12% increase in employee focus
  • A 10% increase in employee performance
  • A 10% increase in employee efficiency
  • A 17% increase in employee work/life balance
  • An 11% increase in employee communication skills
  • A 14% decrease in employee multitasking
The latter is important because multitasking is a very ineffective strategy for coping, added Paterson.
“With mindfulness, instead of working very long hours because you are distracted and you can’t focus, you may still choose to work those long hours, but you are getting a lot more work done.
“People just feel better and on top of their work most of the time, instead of that feeling of despair due to being overwhelmed.”
There is also a correlation between mindfulness practice and the reduction and feeling of stress, he added.
“If employees can work in a way where they feel calm and completely focused they just do a better job,” he said.
“The employee can choose to focus on the next thing in front of them instead of worrying that there are lots of important things to do, and struggling to work out which is the most important.”