Mindfulness Skills during Organisational Change

By Olivia Downing

Published on 23-01-2015

Mindfulness during organisational change

It is the leaders of our organisations who define and drive organisational change; it is their responsibility during such uncertain times, to do so with clarity, calm and a connection to their own values and emotions and an awareness of the values and emotions of their employees.

That is to say they have the opportunity to implement organisational change with a more mindful approach, from which the whole organisation benefits.

What is Mindfulness?

The simplest definition of mindfulness is “attending non-judgmentally to what is actually going on, not what we think is going on”. We spend a lot of time thinking about situations that are not actually happening and, may in fact never happen. We tend to ruminate obsessively about the past and worry incessantly about the future.

All of this mental activity takes up a lot of time and energy (and is rarely fruitful) and can leave us exhausted, unable to think clearly, stressed out and feeling isolated and alone. Mindfulness is a simple tool that can allow us to connect to the “here and now”, it is a tool that can help us to wake up, show up and live all of our moments with greater clarity, calm and connection. It is a tool that can support us to be more effective leaders and more resilient and engaged employees.

Relevance of Mindfulness during Organisational Change

A 2010 study found that numbers of employees receiving medical treatment for stress-related disorders were greater in organisations faced with significant change. This tells us change is stressful for employees. Chronic stress can be expensive for organisations, in terms of an increase in workplace health and safety claims, absenteeism and employee turnover and a reduction in staff productivity.

Organisations have typically focused their stress management dollars on altering the “stressor” (external focus) such as time management training, redesigning of jobs or improved organisational communication (Mason Fries, National University).  While these are useful initiatives, during times of organisational change, it may be more beneficial to equip employees with the skills of altering one’s perception of the stressful situation (internal focus) as the change process itself is already underway.

Mindfulness has been scientifically proven to significantly reduce stress across both clinical and non-clinical populations (Grossman et al, 2003). While introducing mindfulness-based programs for leaders and employees before the change implementation would be most useful, giving your team some simple mindfulness tools to help them to manage the change is also likely to be effective.


Mindfulness skills are relevant for both leaders and employees during times of organisational change as both groups will benefit from the stress.

Through mindfulness, leaders can experience greater clarity of thought and therefore make more accurate and timely decisions and communicate these decisions with greater precision and compassion. Employees can benefit from staying in the “here and now” and avoiding the stress associated with worries of the future.

Any organisation facing a large or small change initiative would be wise to consider including mindfulness skills training into their project plan. Through the implementation of this practice you can expect a greater degree of clarity, calm and connection in your leaders and employees and a smoother and more sustainable transition.

Olivia Downing

Liv Mindfully Group