Mindfulness at Work
A few years ago, my friend Erik Dane and I got excited about doing a study on the importance of mindfulness in the workplace. Erik, a professor at Rice's Jones School of Business, had done theoretical work on the type of roles and tasks that mindfulness would be most important for doing successfully. I had done other research on employee engagement, linking it to job outcomes like performance and intending to quit your job.
We decided to investigate whether mindfulness or engagement was more important for restaurant servers. Mindfulness is about maintaining attention in the present while paying attention to both internal and external cues. Engagement is about having absorption, dedication, and vigor in a job. While both of these things vary within people from day to day and even hour to hour, we compared differences between people who tended to endorse being in these states more often. We often think of the friendly, engaged server as the ideal, but that person might only be good at chatting with customers. There is more to successful serving than being outgoing and happy.
Our basic finding was the mindfulness was more important for performance and engagement was more important for intending to stay in the job. We published this work in Human Relations. The journal decided that our work may have mass appeal, so they invited us to do a podcast and made the article open access so anyone can get it!
Since our paper came out, there has been a lot of research on mindfulness in the workplace. It has been cool to see other scholars use our work as they continue to investigate these issues. You can find more of that work at Mindfulnet.org