Staying focused and on task in the age of constant chatter – social media and cell phones – is a challenge that must be met, said Richard Hawk, who presented a session on mindfulness Monday, October 11 at the 2021 National Safety Congress & Expo in Orlando, Florida. 

Mindfulness carries New Age baggage, a flavor of the month pop psychology image to many. Be careful how you introduce it or start a program, said Hawk. Mindfulness is not about religion. It doesn’t have to be meditation. It’s about practicing the art of paying purposeful attention to a task at hand, something you are doing.

Mindfulness training has been used in white collar environments for decades. Today, more companies have blue collar workers practicing mindfulness exercises. Hawk talked about the pharmaceutical company Merck have a full-time mindfulness specialist or coach for its construction workers.

“This stuff works,” said Hawk. It’s not a fad. In fact, he said “this is the future of safety if anything is. It can be thee vital tool in these times of stress and information overload.”

Safety has traditionally been a physical issue. Hard labor. Lifting. Operating machinery. Strains and sprains. Preventing serious injuries and fatalities. But as work environments become more automated and more wired and “smart,” mental alertness takes on more importance.

Hawk said you can introduce mindfulness exercises using many free resources on the Internet. And it helps to recruit a few employees already practicing mindfulness to help champion this mental workout that is something akin to those stretching exercises in many workplaces. The work outs can be very simple, basic and short. Simply stopping and paying attention to your breathing, in breaths and out breaths, for a few seconds can have a calming effect.

The key is discipline. Practice, practice, practice being mentally aware and focused, said Hawk. If you’re going to offer a training program, keep to a regular schedule. It’s like learning to play an instrument, a sport or any new hobby. The more you do it, the better you get.