If getting through the 9-5 slog alongside your co-workers is becoming a source of irritation, conflict and stress, new research suggests that taking a breather and being ‘mindful’ can maintain and improve relationships in the workplace.
The new study by Griffith University researchers has added to the growing evidence of benefits gained by employing mindfulness in our everyday life, particularly when it comes to office relations.
The findings, ‘Mindfulness beyond wellbeing: Emotion regulation and team-member exchange in the workplace’, has been published in the Australian Journal of Psychology.
Dr Amy J Hawkes from Griffith’s School of Applied Psychology and co-researcher Carla Neale were inspired to conduct the research due to the limited evidence supporting mindfulness in the workplace.
Most of the 496 team workers surveyed noted that they interacted with their teams daily or a couple of times a week.
The respondents were of various ages from various industries including retail, admin, hospitality, health, education.
In collating the responses, the researchers found that being higher in mindfulness was significantly and positively related to team-member exchange, and that this relationship was mediated by emotion regulation.
“There’s already a lot of evidence that suggests if you have a mindful approach towards life then you generally have better relationship satisfaction with your partners or with your friends,” Dr Hawkes said.
“However, our study looked at this in relation to relationships with colleagues at work, and that’s the leap that hasn’t been documented very much previously.”
The study examined ‘dispositional mindfulness’, which is a person’s trait or natural level of mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness in meditation or tasks could potentially boost your baseline mindfulness.
Survey respondents rated their own level of dispositional mindfulness, which indicated the level at which they were naturally aware or unaware of what was happening around them in a nonjudgmental way.
“Our study looked at whether people’s dispositional mindfulness had an impact on how they rated their co-worker relationships as co–opperative and supportive,” Dr Hawkes said.
“People who are more mindful reported higher quality relationships with their colleagues, and that that seems to be explained by how they’re processing and responding to what is happening.
“This ability to process emotions, how they’re feeling in that moment, and then respond appropriately and not snap, is something is that is starting to appear strongly in mindfulness literature as being an explanation for why mindfulness might help these relationship processes.
“Mindfulness is often discussed for its personal benefits when managing stress and improving wellbeing. However, supportive co-workers can often be a buffer for work stress as well, so we think that mindfulness could even be important for those around you in the workplace.”
Dr Hawkes said the next step for this research could be to observe workers within an organisation then run some mindfulness interventions to track improvements to co-worker relationships.