How often in our working week do we hear the phrase “I haven’t had time to think”?

Even writing that question has made me stop in my tracks and consider the connotations of that concept; one of people going about their jobs without opportunity to give consideration to what they are doing. As somebody who runs a business, it’s quite a scary thought.

Clearly, depending upon the nature of one’s job, the potential risks inherent in a working life so hectic that people do not have time to think about what they are doing are varied.

But there is real value in having time to think. Even outside of work, in a world in which our lives have become increasingly encroached upon by technology, especially when it brings our work home or even into our bedrooms, we need to shut things down and take time out in our own heads.

This is one of the reasons why mindfulness has become such a growing phenomenon. People are starting to realise that they need a point in their day that is their own, to check in with their minds and bodies.

Likewise, it only takes a few seconds to stop, breathe and centre oneself, once, maybe twice a day. You don’t even have to leave your desk, though it probably helps for most.

It’s all good for the mind and spirit of the individual, but employers should be aware of the benefits as well. A mindful workforce is more likely to conduct his or her duties in a more considered and thoughtful manner, and less prone to hastily err in their tasks.

Additionally, mindfulness is a weapon in the fight against a rise in depression and anxiety, which affects 20% of the UK working population. Figures from the Health and Safety Executive show one in seven people find work very or extremely stressful.

We hear a lot about the issue of productivity among the UK workforce, and how employers will get as much out of their existing staff before recruiting, but the fact is that there are many people who are overloaded, engaged in the equivalent of a plate spinning or juggling act. Inevitably, without time to consider each move, a plate or ball will come crashing down.

I’m not suggesting that businesses “carry” unproductive people, but that somebody with a workload that does not give them time to think is likely to become a detriment at some point, no matter how good they are.

The potential benefits of building time to think into the working day are many; from doing a job in a more thoughtful, considered manner, to avoidance of personal breakdowns, through mental and physical exhaustion. It can help with developing authentic leaders, driving values and ethics, boosting creativity, and enhancing cognitive performance.

What’s more, the discipline of mindfulness is one that can be coached into staff. The concept of mindful coaching has sprung up for people looking to declutter their brains outside of the workplace, and it’s something that can be done with and for employees, with benefits for staff, employers, customers and colleagues alike.

It’s a wise move to consider this when planning the balance between workload and workforce. Yes, mindfulness may sound like some form of “tree-hugging hippy nonsense” to the uninitiated, but when people are overloaded with work and technological encroachment upon their lives, bringing a little balance can make a huge difference.

Sue Alderson is a director of Azure Consulting, a Yorkshire-based specialist in leadership development. www.azure-consulting.co.uk. 01924 385600. www.twitter.com/azureconsult

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