Four mindful practises to ward off work stress

Smiling Afro-American businessman holding hands behind head sitting at office desk behind laptop. Happy black employee feeling no stress, relaxing, watching funny video after successful working
Being mindful at work can help you feel less stressed and burned out. (Getty Images)

Experiencing stress is often an inevitable part of working life, but sometimes it can get overwhelming and become harmful for our mental health. But practicing mindfulness, particularly in a digital workplace, can protect against anxiety and burnout, a new study has shown.

According to researchers from the University of Nottingham’s Schools of Psychology and Medicine, workers who are more ‘digitally confident’ were less likely to experience anxiety, while those who practised more mindfulness were also protected against stress, overload, fear of missing out, and addiction.

Dr Alexa Spence, associate professor of psychology, said in the study that "digital workplace technologies like e-mail, instant messaging and mobile devices have been shown to contribute to perceptions of stress by employees".

"Employees may experience stress when having to adapt to a constantly evolving digital workplace which can lead to burnout and poorer health," she added.

PhD student Elizabeth Marsh, who led the study, said that the researchers found "being mindfully and confidently digital should be considered important elements of living a healthy digital working life in the 21st century".

The mental health of employees is becoming more important than ever. (Getty Images)
The mental health of employees is becoming more important than ever. (Getty Images)

The concept of mindfulness has been around for a long time. It was first devised as a meditation technique in eastern cultures some 2,500 years ago, but only in recent years has it become popular in the western world.

We turned to the experts to find out what exactly mindfulness means and what you can do to practise it at work.

What does being ‘mindful’ mean?

According to Smriti Joshi, chief psychologist at mental health support provider Wysa, being "mindful" at work refers to the "practise of maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment in a way that is gentle, not critical".

She tells Yahoo UK: "When applied to the digital workplace, it means being consciously present and engaged with your work tasks without being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s happening around you."

Being mindful in a digital workplace might look like:

  • Focusing on one task at a time instead of multitasking.

  • Trying to be non-judgemental and observing thoughts and feelings without labelling them as good or bad.

  • Pausing to observe your internal reactions instead of reacting impulsively to things that make you stressed.

Four mindfulness techniques to try at work

Some people may be hesitant to try being mindful at work out of fear it will take up productivity time. But, as we continue to learn more about the importance of mental health at work, Joshi reminds us that being mindful can still fit into our busy schedules.

"Mindfulness at work doesn’t have to be super ‘woo’ or take up loads of time," Joshi says. Her tips include:

Breathing exercises

Try a deep, slow breathing exercise for a minute or two to centre your attention and reduce stress. Perfect for those times when someone ends a meeting early and ‘gives you back’ five minutes.

Focus on something other than work

Choose an object nearby and focus on observing it for a minute or two. This practice of noticing the details—the texture, color, shape—can help interrupt the autopilot mode of working.

Listen closely

During conversations or meetings, practice fully listening without planning what to say next. This involves being fully present and engaged with the speaker, fostering better communication and understanding. This can also help you build better relationships with co-workers.


Allocating a few minutes daily for mindfulness meditation can help enhance your overall mindfulness and focus at work. This could be through guided meditations focusing on breath, body scans, or other mindfulness exercises. Or take it outside and go for a walk. Sometimes getting away from the desk is the best thing for work.

Why is being mindful important?

Portrait of smiling smart freelancer in casual clothes and spectacles enjoying his work at home
Taking just a few minutes out of your day to practise being mindful can be essential to helping you cope with stress. (Getty Images)

Recent research by the Resolution Foundation revealed that poor mental health is keeping young people out of work, with people in their 20s more likely to be economically inactive because of ill health compared to people in their 40s.

The link between our mental health and work is a crucial one. The better our mental health is, the more likely we are to stay in work and be productive.

Being mindful plays a big role in maintaining good mental health, and is important for a number of reasons. "For a start, it reduces stress and lowers blood pressure and other physiological processes associated with it," she explains.

"Our research of UK employees found 48% are stressed before they even start work, so we definitely need to find ways to tackle it. By focusing on the present and engaging with tasks without judgment, mindfulness can help reduce feelings of stress and anxiety which have implications for the quality of our work, health, and personal lives."

Mindfulness can also help you be more focused by reducing distractions. While multitasking can be valuable, it can also dilute attention and productivity, so balance is key.

The practise can also help you recognise and manage your emotions, as well as the emotions of others. This, in turn, can lead to better workplace relationships, Joshi says.

"Mindfulness increases resilience so you’re better handle workplace challenges and stressors, making it easier to have a more resilient attitude towards setbacks," she adds.

"And it makes us feel good. Incorporating mindfulness into your work routine can contribute to a healthier, more balanced, work and life."

Watch: How to tackle stress in 2024

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