Blog Company Culture What are the Barriers to Mindfulness at Work?
barriers to using mindfulness

Part 1:

The term mindfulness is an overused term without a clearly defined set definition, meaning mindfulness means different things to different people.


In the workplace, this confusion is largely due to the fact that the mindful industry is a largely unregulated area, so the level of qualification or experience of the teacher varies dramatically. Due to this lack of credibility, this arena is not considered a professional service in the same way other staff training courses are.


This issue is compounded by a lack of evidential research to make the case for using mindful practices in the workplace. The lack of research means that the workplace cannot be clear what the actual benefits of using these techniques are, as there are some clearly identifiable outcomes linked to specific elements of mindfulness. Evidence is needed to substantiate the differing mental health in the workplace products and show how they can benefit an employer. Different interventions have differing outcomes which may suite some organisations better than other so it’s important to be clear about what they are and who could benefit most from using them. Having the evidential rationale to demonstrate these differences will make it easier for organisations to choose the option that is right for their company.


The biggest barrier is the culture of the workplace, and certain industries are better placed to adopt the principles of mindfulness than others. For example, the culture of a law firm merits an individual’s success over that of the team which can lead to a big barrier to adopting the principles of mindfulness. Isolating individuals like this makes getting the buy-in for mindfulness from staff across different levels of an organisation a practical issue because each fee earner in each department has to buy into the concept or they will not implement it in their teams. This can lead to inconsistency when attempting to make cultural changes.


Also, in law firms, generational issues have manifested where senior partners were not as open to strategic change initiatives whereas younger individuals were often said to be more open to mindfulness practices within the organisation. This generational issue is not just limited to law firms and is made more difficult when the industry is competitive as this creates extra pressures to be seen to be performing. In these pressurized environments creating time to implement a new initiative can be seen as damaging to the business as this will require time out of the normal day duties. This can lead to scepticism from leaders about the effectiveness of mindfulness techniques in their roles which can also result from a reluctance to change their management styles. Leaders are, therefore, a major barrier as they have the power to implement new initiatives and drive their teams to adopt the new principles. Without leaders being on board mindfulness initiatives are less likely to be successful.


These barriers can be overcome by having a strong evidence base for the justification of using mindfulness. If a business can see the rationale behind the plan they will back it. Having research to demonstrate the benefits to the organisation is essential to forming this business case. Then it’s about developing an evidential based plan that shows how mindfulness will improve the organisation that plans to use it. Ways in which this can be done is by a strong assessment of the company’s performance levels prior to bringing mindfulness in and how it will improve these variables. The performance of the intervention can then be measured during the intervention and the results analysed against the predicted outcomes at the end. Once a business sees a solution working for their company they will invest more time and money into developing the project further.


Part 2:

Mindfulness research has shown transformations to business performance and personal lives when used in the workplace but there are still barriers to using it in the workplace. One of the main reasons an organisation will take on any new programme is that they need to see how it will deliver a return on investment. Based upon recent reports that considered the components of wellbeing bids that were successful where mindfulness was a key mechanism the below highlight the areas that scored the highest when the bid was won.


  • The majority of the most successful bids displayed a clear rationale and business case that related the variables in the programme to clearly identifiable outcomes. The benefits of a mindfulness-based product must show how it will positively impact an organisation. The companies that saw the biggest positive effects were those that integrated the work as part of a cultural change programme.


  • For Mindfulness to be more easily accepted it is important how it is framed. The words used to describe it are very important. The language must speak to the organisation in their own terminology which sometimes means not including the term mindfulness. The reason for this is that the principles need to be understood on an organisational level which involves aligning it with the terminology of the processes, protocols, and norms that are common to the people in that workplace. The value is really seen when it demonstrates a contribution to organisational goals. It is also important to apply the changes differently across the various levels of the organisation meaning a top-down and bottom-up change programme, because then each level of change introduced can be managed and measured.


  • Without leaders to drive the changes it is unlikely that the processes will be adopted into culture or policy. This is why leaders must go through a mindfulness leader programme themselves so they can experientially as well as theoretically understand the benefits. This will lead them to embody the qualities themselves meaning they can facilitate the teaching of mindfulness at all levels across the organisation. The mindful leader is a driver of strategy who can teach any skills that are lacking at the team or individual level as well as holding others accountable for displaying the new qualities.


It is clear that when Mindfulness is adopted fully as part of a cultural change programme that uses the words common to that workplace and the leaders are on board the results are a happier, more productive and more profitable organisation. The key to getting more of these programmes in place is through more research and more case studies that confirm the benefits to organisations. If you are interested in knowing more about how Mindfulness could help your organisation please contact

John Earls

August 19, 2020

Managing Director at The Heart Base. The Heart Base builds wellbeing cultures for organisations worldwide by offering the complete wellbeing programme that includes leadership coaching, resilience training, cultural change initiatives and physical health products.

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