Interested in bringing mindfulness to your organization? Try these proven tips from Dr. Lena Adams Kim, creator of Mindful EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency’s nationwide mindfulness program.
People are the heart of successful organizations. Without addressing the very human tensions, fears, and inner challenges employees and leaders face, organizations can become stagnant and lessen their impact. Mindfulness brings a sense of non-judgemental awareness to the world within us, that can inspire positive action to improve the world around us.Enter your text here…
Mindfulness helps organizations by helping individuals meet their stress from a more compassionate space, cultivating greater courage and resilience. Relationships improve as people learn to be present with their own challenges, and those presented by others. Decisions are made with greater clarity and less reactivity as employees learn to navigate difficult situations and emotions with greater patience and ease.
Employee dedication and retention improves as mindfulness encourages the following:
In addition to improving workplace relationships, integrating mindfulness practices at work has been shown to increase productivity and decrease workplace injuries 
So if you’d like to bring mindfulness to your organization, company, or team, where and how do you begin? The following 9 tips come from the experience of Dr. Lena Kim, a graduate of the Mindfulness Exercises’ Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Training Program, and a senior communications consultant with the EPA. Below, Dr. Kim shares what she learned through the process of building a workplace mindfulness program within a federal organization.
9 Proven Tips for Introducing Mindfulness to the Workplace
Approaching the subject of mindfulness in the workplace can be challenging. Although the effectiveness of mindfulness is backed by peer-reviewed scientific research, not everyone is aware of its far-reaching benefits. Many are hesitant about investing the time or resources to give mindfulness a try.
Dr. Lena Adams Kim, Director of Mindful EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency’s national mindfulness program, has experienced this first hand. But by using the following strategies, Dr. Kim was able to overcome resistance and bring mindfulness to thousands of employees in her workplace.
This guide shares the strategies that worked for Dr. Kim, so you too, can successfully introduce mindfulness to your organization.
We hope the following proven tips will make your efforts to share mindfulness with others more effective and impactful, so that more people can live and work from a place of deeper presence and less stress.
1. First, Educate and Inform
Fear of trying new things is part of human nature. And if we don’t understand something, it’s easier to feel skeptical about it. When it comes to bringing mindfulness to those unaware of its benefits, creating awareness is essential.
One year before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, Dr. Kim offered to host an educational session about mindfulness as part of a larger employee event. This single small session planted the seeds that later sprouted into a nationwide mindfulness program.
So don’t be afraid to start small. A brief workshop or seminar let’s people explore the benefits of mindfulness and even experience them for themselves. While this may not result in a national program overnight, a single session can help open doors by educating others as to what mindfulness is all about.
Two things work wonders as antidotes to doubt: educating others on the neuroscience of mindfulness, and experiencing the benefits first-hand. So in your brief workshop, point out the proven benefits of daily mindfulness, and leave your audience with instructions on how to practice on their own.
The following tip can help you decide how much of each to emphasize.
2. Know Your Audience and Use Their Lingo
There are many ways to present mindfulness and structure a single session. Dr. Kim recommends feeling out your audience so you can highlight the benefits that are most relevant to their goals and objectives – in the terms and language they would use.
Wording plays an important role in perception. For certain audiences, it might even be more effective to replace the word “mindfulness” with a term like “present moment awareness” or “training the brain.”
If your organizational leaders are driven by logic, analytics, and data, consider leading with the neuroscience behind mindfulness. Place heavier emphasis on research and background information before diving into short experiential practices.
Most workplaces are interested in reducing stress, improving focus and performance, increasing productivity, making decisions with greater clarity, and improving relationships within the workplace, and with clients.
3. Choose the Right Messenger
The individual who proposes mindfulness to a decision-maker can often mean the difference between a yes or a no. What is their level of credibility and authority within the organization?
When someone hears about mindfulness from a trusted source, they will be much more likely to listen and act upon the advice. Fortunately for Dr. Kim, her role as a Senior Communications Consultant gave her authority at the EPA, and her ideas were well respected. But if needed, there are ways to bridge a gap between you as the presenter, and the decision makers.
If you don’t feel you have enough authority within your organization, partner with someone who does. Share your idea with the senior employees closest to you or with those who have more influence within your organization.
Spend time looking, and it’s likely you’ll find company leaders who are already interested in mindfulness, who will be excited to partner with you. Ask for their support in presenting your ideas.
4. Leverage Partnerships With Other Practitioners
Depending on the size of your organization, there’s likely several people who already have a personal mindfulness or meditation practice. These people are natural ambassadors for you, and may be inclined to offer their help.
Provide current practitioners with resources and information they can share with their own teams. If you’re thinking about putting together a larger mindfulness program for a vast organization, make it clear you’re open to help, and let those who are interested self-select to lead the efforts.
“Embody humility by asking people what they want and what’s already working so you can determine what would be most useful and co-create together,” said Dr. Kim.
Dr. Kim credits the successful nationwide rollout of Mindful EPA to the neworks of existing teams who were already advocating for mindfulness. She emphasizes the importance of the grassroots movement and collective voices, rather than having just one person lead.
5. Encourage Ambassadors to Emerge
As you or another certified mindfulness teacher begin to teach small workshops and classes, follow up after each session by asking for feedback. When people reflect on the benefits they’ve received, those benefits strengthen. In addition, encourage them to share their positive feedback with others.
Dr. Kim found that after people attended short mindfulness sessions, they were excited to share their experience with colleagues through email or word of mouth. If you’re asking for feedback in a formal, online manner, you can make sharing even easier by including links to future sessions or events.
It’s normal for people to balk when management requires them to try something — even if it’s for their own wellness. But if they hear their peers speaking positively about the benefits, they’re more likely to be curious to try it out for themselves.
6. Avoid Mandatory Mindfulness
If you’re a leader or manager yourself, refrain from requiring or directing employees to participate in mindfulness programs. Instead, free up time in your staff schedules, or find other ways to make it easier for them to attend each mindfulness session.
But allow those who are interested to make their own choices regarding attendance. Not everyone will be on board and that’s ok. Just as forcing someone to eat healthy inevitably leads to pushback, making mindfulness mandatory leads to little benefit.
When people have the freedom and flexibility to make their own decision, they’re more apt to give things a try. “A grassroots movement has more sticking power because people are using and sharing a resource because it’s truly helping them, not because leadership told them to do so,” says Dr. Kim.
7. Relate to the Decision-makers’ Background
Before sharing mindfulness with EPA national leadership, Dr. Kim intentionally learned more about the deputy administrator she would be presenting to. When she saw the administrator graduated from Harvard, Dr. Kim added science-backed mindfulness research from Harvard into her presentation. This boosted credibility and extended a layer of interpersonal connection.
Before you make a presentation about mindfulness to decision-makers, do some research.
Close your presentation with a specific ask, but be willing to start small. For example, ask to host a one-time seminar, a 3-month long program, or a brief trial period. Collect data on how many attended each session, and what the positive outcomes were. Then, set up a meeting to present your results.
Once you’ve built some credibility and a stronger connection with decision-makers, they’ll be more open to supporting bigger, future ideas.
8. Keep Track of What Works
Once Dr. Kim started holding mindfulness sessions for teams within her organization, she kept track of attendance. This allowed her to show her leadership team that interest and engagement in these sessions was growing over time
If you start by offering free drop-in mindfulness sessions, for example, keep track of both the qualitative and quantitative data.
Tracking not only helps you communicate outcomes to leadership, but it can help you improve your offerings by shedding light on which sessions, what time of day, or what material resonates best.
9. Ensure Quality With Mindfulness Certification
Sharing tools to help people improve their well-being is a responsibility that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Teaching mindfulness should be done with care, compassion, integrity, and skill. To avoid harm or even just discouragement, it’s important the person leading the session is experienced or certified in teaching mindfulness.
Whether you personally want to teach mindfulness within your organization or want to delegate someone else to do so, consider mindfulness and meditation teaching certification as a first step. Becoming certified as a mindfulness teacher allows you (or someone on your team) to lead mindfulness in a skillful manner to avoid harm and increase benefits.
There are a wide range of high-quality mindfulness certification programs available both online and in-person. When choosing which mindfulness teacher training certification program is best for you, consider the following:
To continue supporting the wellness of those who protect our environment, the EPA has enrolled several of its employees in Mindfulness Exercises’ Mindfulness and Meditation Teacher Training program taught by Sean Fargo. As you do your due diligence to choose the mindfulness training program that works best for you, learn more about certification with Mindfulness Exercises here.
Strengthen Your Organization With Mindfulness
Mindfulness changes the world by changing the world within each individual. So while it’s up to each of us to develop our own mindfulness practice, organizations and workplaces can provide tools to support their employees in this beneficial way.
In 2021, more than half of large companies offered some type of mindfulness training to their employees. This often ranges from apps to workshops, events, or even personal coaching.
And while digital tools and apps are a wonderful way to get started with the basics, truly integrating mindfulness into our lives takes guidance and practice. Nothing compares to the personalized support of a certified mindfulness teacher, and especially one who’s integrated within your work community.
Mindfulness can lead to a much more meaningful and deeper experience as employees and managers learn a new way of relating — to themselves, to others, and to their work.
Read more about Dr. Kim and her journey building the Mindful EPA program here.