Health, meet wealth: Connecting the dots between gratitude, mindfulness and productivity

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Well-being in the workplace is a hot topic these days, especially among forward-looking organizations. There’s no question that happier employees are more productive employees, which has a positive impact on the bottom line – but where should you invest your resources to help your employees lead happier lives? The answer is deceptively simple: start by helping your employees to take time for gratitude and mindfulness.  

Creating a culture of happiness in the workplace is no small task – especially in the face of many common work-related stressors like tight deadlines or long hours. Fortunately, the business case for creating a happier workplace – starting with initiatives to inspire gratitude and mindfulness – is stronger than ever before.

Gratitude

Just as overall positive feelings unleash a happiness-boosting rush of dopamine in the brain, feelings of gratitude stimulate the release of dopamine – the “happy hormone” – in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for bodily functions like eating and sleeping. This in turn has a positive impact on general health and well-being – by regulating your sleep and metabolism and reducing stress – and it also increases your overall level of happiness.

Gratitude isn’t just good for your employees, however – the research indicates that it’s also a good business practice. Harvard Medical School and the University of Pennsylvania performed a study in which workers in a fundraising call centre were randomly divided into two groups. One group received a “pep talk” from the Director of Fundraising, in which she told them how grateful she was for their efforts. The other group went to work as usual (with no overt display of gratitude). In the following week, the group that had heard the director’s expressions of gratitude made 50% more fundraising calls than the group who didn’t.

Mindfulness

Encouraging employees to be mindful – or aware of their thoughts and feelings and being engaged in the present moment – also has important benefits that translate into business value. Our minds are often busy thinking about the future (What do I have to do next? What should I say when this person finishes their sentence?) or the past (I wish I hadn’t said that. Why did I do that?). But turning our full attention to the present moment is equally important.

Practicing mindfulness enhances our emotional intelligence, reduces stress and anxiety, contributes to lower blood pressure, and enhances memory. It also helps to reduce “mental clutter” and allows you to focus more intently on the task at hand.

As more and more companies offer mindfulness programs to their employees, the results speak for themselves. General Mills, for example, saw dramatic improvements in productivity from employees who participated in a mindfulness course. In fact, they reported a 60% increase in staff “taking time each day to optimize personal productivity” and “eliminating tasks with limited productivity value.” 80% of executives reported a positive change in their ability to make better decisions, and 89% believed that they became better listeners.

Building a workplace culture that centers on well-being is a major undertaking. Focusing your efforts on initiatives that promote gratitude and mindfulness is an important step. For more simple steps that you can take to create a happier workplace and drive productivity, check back for next week’s post.


Simone Concha is JLL’s Director of Sustainability – Australia. Simone is responsible for coordinating the delivery of sustainability services across all business lines in Australia, and leading the Australian business to meet JLL global corporate sustainability objectives. She is a Member of the Green Building Council of Australia, a Green Star Accredited Professional and a Certified Assessor.

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