Mindfulness in the Workplace

Topic(s): burnout, job satisfaction, wellness
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (March 2013)
Article: Benefits of mindfulness at work: The role of mindfulness in emotion regulation, emotional exhaustion, and job satisfaction
Authors: Hulsheger, U. R., Alberts, H. J. E. M., Feinholdt, A., & Lang, J. W. B.
Reviewed by: Alexandra Rechlin

One of the newest concepts that people are talking about (at least here in Colorado) is mindfulness. Mindfulness is a state in which you pay attention to the present without making judgments, negative or positive, about the feelings or thoughts you have. You’ve probably heard of it, and maybe you’re a little bit skeptical. Very few studies are out there that investigate mindfulness in the workplace, but a team of researchers in the Netherlands, led by Ute Hülsheger, recently set out to determine the benefits of mindfulness at work.

Hülsheger and her colleagues studied workers in service industries, because these fields tend to demand that employees fake their emotions at work; in I/O psychology, we call this surface acting. For example, an employee might be really angry with a rude customer, but in a customer service role she must surface act, hiding her true feelings and pretending to be happy.

Through two studies, the researchers found that people vary both in how mindful they are at any given time (state mindfulness), as well as how mindful they are overall (trait mindfulness). The level of mindfulness also predicted job satisfaction and emotional exhaustion, with higher levels of mindfulness resulting in greater job satisfaction and less emotional exhaustion. In addition, mindfulness training reduced the need to fake positive emotions, causing job satisfaction to increase and emotional exhaustion to decrease.

These results imply that mindfulness training can be beneficial in your organization, especially in service industries. People can be taught to be mindful, improving job satisfaction and reducing emotional exhaustion.