Blog by Victoria Dale on how mindfulness can help reduce our own biases.
September often marks the return to work, study or starting something new after the summer break. Otherwise known as “Stresstember”, it is considered to be one of the most stressful times of the year as people get back to some kind of routine after the summer holidays.
Often when we are under pressure whether it is a major life change, tight deadline or catching up on a mountain of work after the summer holidays, we tend to make snap decisions without firstly acknowledging how we feel (stressed, tired, etc) sitting back and reflecting and taking in all the facts before making a decision.
Some studies suggest that mindfulness can help reduce peoples’ own biases by helping us to slow down, pause, focus on our thoughts and feelings, be more self-aware and make intentional choices about how we want to respond to difficult situations rather than jumping to conclusions and automatically reacting in ways that we sometimes regret.
With the growth of the wellness industry and the 24/7 working culture, mindfulness is becoming increasingly popular and more important in the workplace for employers.
There are various definitions of mindfulness but in essence it is simply focusing one’s mind on the present, how we feel, what we’re doing and how we respond. Mindfulness has been proven to reduce stress, improve sleeping patterns, clarity of thinking, improve staff productivity and morale. Increasingly more employers recognise the importance of mindfulness to staff wellbeing and productivity as it becomes an intrinsic part of employers wellbeing programme in the workplace.
Recent studies suggest that mindfulness can help reduce our unconscious biases towards others by making us more aware of our feelings and prejudices and think more rationally and clearly before reacting.
The Harvard Business Review highlighted its impact from a recent study carried out by Adam Lueke and Bryan Gibson, Social Researchers at Central Michigan University in 2014. Their study revealed that a group who listened to a 10-minute mindfulness exercise exhibited less bias in regards to race and age based on their implicit association test (IATs) results than those who didn’t follow the mindfulness exercise.
So what can you do in the workplace to practice mindfulness?
Being mindful doesn’t require sitting in a darkened room meditating for 10 minutes. There are simple ways we can practice mindfulness in the workplace that can help support a more inclusive working culture and promote inclusive behaviours:
- Focus on a single task at a time than multi task means you’re more likely to give something or someone your full attention rather than rushing.
- Turn off/silence any distractions such as e-mails, tablets and mobiles when in a meeting or having an important conversation with a colleague or team member. Focus on what they’re saying, be aware of your own biases and decide how you will respond.
- Allow yourself breaks to practice being mindful by getting some fresh air, stretching or moving around the office.
- When you begin to feel stressed or agitated, practice a simple meditation technique that focuses on your breathing by breathing in and out for a minute and think about how you’re sitting and how fast/slow you’re breathing.
 Mindfulness Meditation Reduces Implicit Age and Race Bias: The Role of Reduced Automaticity of Responding, Adam Lueke and Bryan Gibson, Social Psychological and Personality Science 6(3) · November 2014
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