The importance of mindfulness for ECEC work highlighted by Griffith research

by Freya Lucas

June 11

Taking a breather and being mindful can help to improve and maintain collegial relationships in the workplace, researchers from Griffith University have found. Their findings are of particular interest to those working in early childhood education and care (ECEC) services, where children are observing the adults caring for them to learn skills such as conflict resolution, critical thinking and social interaction.

 

The research, titled Mindfulness beyond wellbeing: Emotion regulation and team-member exchange in the workplace has been published in the Australian Journal of Psychology. The research team were inspired to conduct the research due to the limited evidence supporting mindfulness in the workplace.

 

Of the 496 team-based workers surveyed, most noted that they interacted with their fellow team members daily, or a couple of times a week. Respondents were from a variety of age groups, and work in sectors and industries including retail, administration, hospitality, health care, education and ECEC.

 

When compiling the responses, the researchers found that having a higher level of mindfulness had a significant and positive affect on how teams functioned.

 

Lead researcher Dr Amy J Hawke, said there was an existing body of evidence showing that those who have a more mindful approach to life generally have better relationship satisfaction in their relationships outside of work, and that her research aimed to explore if this was also true for workplace relationships.

 

The study examined ‘dispositional mindfulness’, which is a person’s trait or natural level of mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness in meditation or tasks could potentially boost your baseline mindfulness. In conducting the research, respondents rated their own level of dispositional mindfulness, which indicated the level at which they were naturally aware or unaware of what was happening around them in a nonjudgmental way.  

 

This self perception was then compared with how individuals rated their co-worker relationships as co–opperative and supportive, Dr Hawkes said. “People who are more mindful reported higher quality relationships with their colleagues, and that seems to be explained by how they’re processing and responding to what is happening.”

 

The ability for an individual to process emotions, and note how they are feeling in any given moment is something that is starting to appear strongly in mindfulness literature as being an explanation for why mindfulness might help these relationship-based processes, Dr Hawkes noted.

 

Mindfulness, she said, can have benefits which extend beyond the personal, in terms of managing stress and improving wellbeing. Supporting co-workers, and having co-workers support you, is emerging as a core element of workplace wellbeing, and mindfulness has an important role to play in providing that support.

 

In terms of advancing the research, which is available to read here, Dr Hawkes said next steps are likely to involve observation of workers within an organisation followed by running some mindfulness interventions to track improvements to co-worker relationships.

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