Mindfulness at Work: The Bottom Line

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In one of my recent posts, I talked about my new habit of making time during my lunch break to use the quiet room in my workplace, along with my mindfulness app, and sit for a short, fifteen-minute meditation.

The goal? Clear the mind and lay the groundwork for a more productive afternoon ahead. I’m feeling a benefit, but given what early going this practice is for me, I can’t claim anything more than anecdotal evidence.

But what are experts saying about how mindfulness helps employees and enterprises?

Here’s a round-up of four articles on the subject:

In the Atlantic, Jo Pinsker interviews New York Times journalist David Gelles about his new book, Mindful Work, which discusses the phenomenon of more companies offering mindfulness programs for their employees. According to Gelles, corporations are more receptive to mindfulness than ever before because science can now demonstrate tangible mental and physical health benefits that improve a company’s bottom line. For example, Aetna estimates that since instituting its mindfulness program, it saved $2,000 per employee in healthcare costs and $3,000 in productivity.

In the Guardian, Gill Crosland-Thackray interviews corporate mindfulness expert Mirabai Bush, who emphasizes that mindful employees can improve workers’ ability to manage conflict and communicate more effectively in difficult situations.

Canadian Business highlights mindfulness programs at leading companies here at home, including BMO, Hydro One and the Conference Board of Canada. They also provide an overview of Google’s prototype Search Inside Yourself program, which has trained over 500 employees and created meditation spaces throughout the company’s campuses.

Harvard Business Review talks about their participation in a study measuring improvements in areas of the brain associated with effective workplace behaviours. The study found meditators showed increased activity in the anterior cingulate cortex, associated with self-regulation and decision-making, and increased grey matter in the hippocampus, associated with the ability to manage stress.

But not everyone is sold. Some worry that companies with less than stellar reputations as corporate citizens may co-opt mindfulness programs. In the Atlantic article, Pinsker raises this with Gelles. “Only in a few instances in the book do I really try to say that mindfulness led a company that stand in contrast to the way they behaved previously,” Gelles replies. “The focus I hope is on the employees themselves. Mindfulness is most effective when individuals use it to take better care of themselves and treat their colleagues and other people in a more compassionate and accepting way.”

I suppose only time will tell if these programs will turn out to be a passing fancy or a permanent fixture.

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Photo Credits:

Mindfulness Reminders by ssoosay CC BY 2.0

Guru_Meditation by Hakezuba CC BY 2.0

 

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