Employees who are ‘mindful’ about work are more satisfied with their jobs and less likely to quit, new research says.
In a study featured in the Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, an international team of researchers sought to understand the impact of mindfulness on the performance of workers serving in monotonous jobs.
To get data, the researchers observed 174 employees of a Mexican manufacturing plant responsible for making discount coupons for US retailers. The task was identified as highly repetitive with no additional incentives for the workers for performing well.
Throughout the study, the researchers examined the workers’ level of mindfulness according to a six-point mindfulness attention awareness scale. They also measured the staff’s boredom levels and attitudes.
After four months, the team gathered data on the number of coupons that the workers produced, as well as the number of errors they made along the way.
Mindfulness’ ‘double-edged’ impact
By the end of the study, the researchers discovered that the more mindful the employees were, the less bored they felt about the task no matter how monotonous it was. These workers also performed better at their job.
Since their boredom levels were reduced, mindful employees also felt more satisfied with the work that they were doing. They were also less likely to quit their job because of the improvement in their attitude.
However, not all results were positive as mindfulness also had a drawback in the workers’ performance. While the quality of their work improved, mindful employees showed a drop in the number of tasks they were able to accomplish. The study described this as a ‘double-edged sword’ impact on the workers.
Differences in white-collar and blue-collar jobs
The study compared the impact of workplace mindfulness in the context of white-collar and blue-collar jobs. White-collar workers supposedly benefit from relatively high levels of variety and human interaction in their work.
Meanwhile, blue-collar employees are relegated to more monotonous working environments, such as those seen in the agriculture, manufacturing, and services sectors.
The researchers note that far too little research is done on the potential impact of mindfulness in workers in monotonous jobs. This is despite more people serving in these kinds of work environments.
“Monotonous jobs are held by millions of people around the world and more research needs to be done about those jobs,” Jochen Menges, a researcher at the University of Zürich and co-author of the study, said.
“Our research now seeks to redress the balance in favor of blue-collar workers. We find that more mindful employees perceive their monotonous job as less boring and have higher job satisfaction, and are thus less likely to leave.”
If the quality of work is more valuable than the quantity, then the researchers suggest companies should recognise and support their workers’ mindfulness. Organisations should also adopt more mindfulness training for their employees to help improve their performance even with monotonous tasks.
However, mindfulness is not the solution for all problems associated with monotonous jobs. The research team believes companies should also look into changing these kinds of work, from how they design tasks to how they pay their workers.