Mindfulness Meditation in the Workplace
The Impact of Extreme Stress in the Workplace
The workplace is a novel and complex environment and our brains love it. Except - when we are too stressed out to think clearly. Corporations spend 60% of their after-tax profits on healthcare for their employees. This is a direct result of workplace stress. Stress causes havoc within our bodies and brains. It can be directly responsible for high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, lower immune function, and psychological disorders. The leading causes of workplace stress include:
· Low salaries
· Heavy workload
· Lack of opportunities
· Uncertain job expectations
· Long hours (Francis,C. 2013)
The impact on the bottom line comes down to these assumptions:
· Stressed out employees generally are less productive.
· Stress leads to poor health and greater healthcare expenditures.
· There is less cooperation and teamwork leading to greater inefficiency.
· More interpersonal conflicts among employees which is counterproductive.
· Stress leads to poor communication, which then leads to inefficiency.
· Stressed out employees are more preoccupied with their personal problems than the company’s objectives.
· Stressed out employees aren’t capable of seeing the bigger picture (i.e. company goals).
(Francis, C. 2013)
Does this resonate with you? I know I have worked in this type of environment. It is brutal to go through day after day with this stress weighing you down. The ultimate result is burnout. No one wins in this environment. If we want to contain healthcare expenditures, we need to live healthier lifestyles by reducing stress levels.
Mindfulness Meditation Can Make a Difference
Companies cannot afford to assume these losses consistently. Wellness programs are designed to measure physical indicators of chronic disease health problems. They are able to counsel employees and put together action plans for a healthy lifestyle. Although wellness programs can save healthcare dollars there is a problem with employee engagement. These programs can actually turn out to be another source of stress. Wellness programs still don’t address the initial cause of workplace chronic disease because they don’t address the stress component of the workplace. However, when a mindfulness meditation program is integrated into the workplace culture, there is a chance of reducing stress levels on an individual basis. The employee can learn to be resilient in the face of stress. A mindfulness meditation practice has the ability to:
· Lower stress
· Improve immune system function
· Live a healthier lifestyle
· Improve cognitive abilities
(The Mindfulness Meditation Institute)
The Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
Incorporating mindfulness meditation training into organizational development strategies will pay off in numerous ways including employee performance.
Employees practicing mindfulness meditation will have:
· Increased ability to cope with stress and be more resilient to workplace pressures
· Increased ability to focus - a core element of mindful practice is training for concentration
· Improved cognitive abilities – think with a clear mind which can lead to greater complex problem solving and decision-making capabilities
· Better communication skills – deep listening and mindful speech will improve communication
· Greater systems thinking – employees are able to understand wider implications of their actions; an understanding that things are interconnected
· Improved self-confidence – through greater self-awareness employees will discover their true potential
· More effective leadership – they will become people with the necessary skills and integrity to take on more responsibility
The Harvard Business Review recently added a couple more benefits to a mindfulness program.
1. Mindfulness helps to build resilience; decreases the effects of anxiety and stress.
2. Mindfulness can strengthen emotional intelligence. It helps to improve our levels of patience and ability to regulate our emotions. An inner sense of calm makes it easier for us to cope when things don’t go our way.
3. Mindfulness promotes creativity. Mindfulness enables greater insights and more out-of-the-box innovative thinking.
4. Mindfulness enhances personal relationships. Practicing mindful techniques including meditation, makes us a bit more tolerant and compassionate.
5. Mindfulness helps you focus. Mindfulness with its emphasis of staying in the moment helps us to stay more focused and improves our ability to concentrate.
The Challenges of Introducing Mindfulness into the Workplace
Just to be clear, there are many benefits of mindfulness but there are also some challenges to integrating it into the workplace. The following are some of the pitfalls of practicing mindfulness meditation.
- Mindfulness should be voluntary. Employees shouldn’t feel pressured to practice if mindfulness doesn’t work for them.
- Mindfulness isn’t a productivity tool. Employers, introducing mindfulness as a productivity tool, are not being transparent. About the benefit. Yes, mindfulness promotes different ways of thinking and acting in the workplace, and that may very well increase productivity as a result.
What’s the Verdict?
Meditation seems like it is the next best thing since sliced bread! These outcomes from meditation practice have been documented in companies like Apple, Yahoo, Google, Texas Instruments, McKinsey Consulting, Deutsch Bank, and Hughes Aircraft. It is hard to question the effectiveness of meditation when it has found success in very successful companies. Research is ongoing on meditation, but it continues to validate the outcomes of the practice. With our high intensity environment, speed of communication and overwhelming amount of information that we are exposed to everyday, meditation is the perfect practice for brain health.
Francis, Charles (2013). Mindfulness in the workplace. http://mindfulnessmeditationinstitute.org
Team MyHub. (June 28, 2018). Mindfulness in the workplace: practical ways to introduce it. Retrieved from https://www.www.myhubintranet.com/mindfulness-in-the-workplace