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What Is Systemic Mindfulness and Why Your Organization Needs It Now

Submitted by Bonnie Kowaliuk, BA, BMT, MBA, MTA, RSW, Senses Mindfulness Coaching


Our current workplace culture is laser-focused on DOING—hitting key performance indicators, landing big customers, and increasing revenue. Multi-tasking and 24/7 remote work access have become the priority, even when they affect the physical, mental, and emotional capacity of our workforce.


Now that Zoom is the go-to conference room, and cell phones are always-on mobile offices, paying attention to the present moment has become incredibly difficult. Having the technology to work anytime, anywhere, has blurred the boundaries that used to protect us.

Yet, high performers and burned-out employees are recognized as “winners.” They are getting the credit, praise, and promotions that others seek. But what kind of message does this send to the rest of the organization?


Are we saying, “do more so you can grow and succeed?”


The truth is, we need to do less and pause more to replenish our cups. Preventative health strategies are not a luxury but a necessity.


Systemic mindfulness can help organizations shift their focus from DOING into BEING, so teams can sustain a healthy work-life balance and thrive. Healthier employees can be more present, focused, and engaged without sacrificing their well-being.


What Is Systemic Mindfulness?

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, defines mindfulness as “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.”


Systemic mindfulness adds a systemic layer to this awareness. It’s a strategic approach to mindfulness where all moving parts (top-down and bottom-up) interact and impact one another from a mindful state of being.


Systemic mindfulness is a living practice infused into every element and person in the workplace. It requires the coordinated effort to think, act, make decisions, and promote initiatives rooted in the present moment.


This process involves embodying mindfulness qualities such as intention, compassion, curiosity, empathy, and loving-kindness, as well as giving people access, support, community, and resources to embrace them.


Systemic mindfulness is much more than a single workshop or a mental health day. It’s about creating a tapestry of wellness that supports the well-being of all members of your organization.


How Can Mindfulness Support Your Organization?

In his book, The Mindful Workplace, Michael Chaskalson discusses the outcomes of mindfulness training in the workplace. These include decreased psychological distress; increased awareness, concentration, resilience, and emotional intelligence; lower absenteeism rates; enhanced communication skills, and many more.


Research indicates that reduced stress is one of the most cited benefits of mindfulness, linking it with decreased emotional exhaustion and burnout and increased satisfaction and employee engagement. Evidence shows that mindfulness may result in significant improvements in executive functioning and working memory, including positive effects on cognitive task performance.


Studies also claim that mindfulness may activate regions of the brain associated with adaptive responses to stressful or negative situations. This lower reactivity and higher response flexibility may help individuals navigate change and avoid impulsive decision-making.


When organizations invest their time and effort to live and breathe mindfully, they allow their teams to enjoy these benefits inside and outside the workplace.


How Can Organizations Embody Systemic Mindfulness?

Investing in Infrastructure, Training, and Development

Key stakeholders must provide the infrastructure for mindfulness training and development to the entire organization. This includes endorsing programs hosted by certified facilitators and allocating spaces and resources for teams to engage in individual and group practices such as meditation, breathing exercises, and value identification sessions.


Promoting and Implementing Learnings

Genuine change into a mindful workplace culture requires implementation beyond the training phase. All parts of the organization must encourage and apply these learnings into everything they do—how they run meetings, communicate with others, deal with challenges when they arise, etc.


Some practical examples of how to implement mindfulness at work include:

  • Starting every meeting with a mindful moment, giving people time to settle and ground before the conversation begins.

  • Sending timely reminders to take breaks throughout the day to move, do a mindfulness exercise, or simply breathe.

  • Focusing on single-tasking versus multi-tasking.

  • Scheduling recurring mindful activities where teams can practice together, like a guided group meditation.

Staying Committed

Creating a culture that nurtures a mindful state of being might be difficult but necessary, especially in these uncertain times. Consistent practice, monitoring, and long-term commitment can help us transform a reactive and depleted workforce into an expansive and resilient one.


Mindful Wrap-Up

  • Today’s workplace culture encourages doing rather than being, which is draining our workforce instead of protecting their well-being.

  • Mindfulness is about BEING in the moment. It’s the intentional awareness of the present without judgment.

  • Systemic mindfulness is the systemic approach to this awareness within all aspects of an organization. It takes the joint effort of all members, time, access, resources, and commitment to ensure it becomes part of the workplace culture.

  • Mindfulness is associated with a broad range of positive effects in the workplace, such as reduced stress and burnout, increased focus, resilience and satisfaction.

  • Systemic mindfulness allows teams to enjoy such outcomes but requires investing in infrastructure, training and development, implementing learnings, and staying committed. Forwarding the action and walking the talk is critical to sustaining these benefits.

Need Organizational Support?

Systemic mindfulness can help organizations support the mental, physical, and emotional health of their workforce—which is their most valued asset!


Do you want to learn more about mindfulness and how it can nurture your workplace wellness?


Senses Mindfulness Coaching offers team coaching, custom workshops, retreats, MBSR programs, and other initiatives ideal for organizational teams.


Book a complimentary call or visit sensesmindfulness.com for more information.


About the Author

Bonnie Kowaliuk is an eclectic mindfulness coach and transformational leadership consultant with background designations as a registered social worker, accredited music therapist and workplace leadership consultant with an MBA in leadership, who over the course of the past 13 years has been exploring brain-based approaches to learning, transformational leadership, health and wellness. She recently completed her designation as a Fellow of the Bonny Method of Guided Imagery and Music which employs music integrated mindfulness and psychotherapeutic approaches to help address a range of issues from health and wellness to optimal learning and performance.


Bonnie is a CTI certified coach and is in process of completing her Certification in Mindfulness via Royal Roads. As a lifelong learner & change catalyst, she hopes to aspire growth, change and evolution in others and in organizations through her own example and her love to learn, live authentically and discover her true self. Bonnie can be contacted at info@sensesmindfulness.com or via www.sensesmindfulness.com.


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