The workplace is more stressful than ever. With modern technology, employees rarely have a time in their day when they are completely removed from work responsibilities. A competitive job market encourages employees to work harder and longer, take on larger workloads than ever before. These added workplace pressures lead to stress and anxiety that affect how individuals make decisions and perform tasks both in and out of the office.
Many companies, both large and small, have been working hard to implement in-office programs that help employees to deal with stress, anxiety and workplace pressures. In addition to cultivating positive work environments, many employers have experience huge workplace improvements thanks to meditation programs. Some offices offer meditation spaces while others offer guided sessions that help introduce mindful practices into employees lives during the workday. The most common practice in the workplace is Mindfulness Meditation, which is a practice that brings the mind’s focus to the body and the breathing in order to help improve concentration and promote open awareness of thoughts and feelings. But the effects extend beyond the moment of practice and into all decisions made throughout the day from what to eat, how to perform tasks at work and how to spend free time.
So how exactly does Mindfulness Meditation affect the working brain and workplace performance? When we take time during the workday to stop working and focus on the present, it helps to create a stronger control of the mind’s function and productivity. By controlling senses and breathing, it’s easier to let go of thoughts and feelings of the past and future and train the brain to focus on what is happening in the present moment. By giving the brain a single-task workout, we learn how to stay focused on one task at a time instead of multi-tasking and attempting to complete 10 assignments at once. Training the mind to focus is undoubtedly beneficial to productivity when studies show that the average attention span is now 8 seconds thanks to the fast moving, technology obsessed society we live in. So not only does employee performance improve, but studies have shown that a regular meditation practice reduces stress and anxiety in the brain.
Aside from reduced stress and improved productivity, there are many other benefits that come from a corporate meditation program. A regular meditation practice helps to open creative doorways in the brain. With increased focus, problem-solving skills get more creative and new ideas enter the mind more freely. Many people believe that Steve Jobs was so successful in coming up with new and innovative ideas for Apple thanks to a regular meditation practice. As someone who maintained a regular meditation practice and was one of the first corporate leaders to implement in-office mindfulness programs, it’s no doubt that some of Apple’s success is due to his disciplined mental focus and control.
Meditation benefits have also been proven to help resolve workplace conflicts. Mindfulness practices equip employees with better conflict management and interpersonal skills that make resolving issues easier for employees and managers alike. How does this work? Brain scans of meditators versus non-meditators shows that mindfulness meditation helps to trigger the relaxation response, the opposite of fight or flight. The relaxation response can be accessed during times of conflict or stress in order to solve rationally instead of reacting emotionally with the fight or flight response. Employees with meditation practices are aware of their immediate reactions and can more easily step away from a situation in order to make the best decision about how to solve an issue. By improving emotional intelligence and promoting the importance of listening to co-workers and peers, a mindfulness meditation practice can decrease the number of conflicts that arise in the workplace.
Lastly, one of the greatest benefits of a workplace meditation program is the improved overall happiness of employees. With “employee happiness” being one of the biggest buzz works of 2016, it’s important to explore different ways to promote happiness that aren’t related to office kegerators or the mysterious unlimited vacation day policy. A regular meditation practice helps to improve overall happiness, self-awareness and patience. Big corporations like AOL and McKinsey & Co. have experienced increased sales performance, proving that what’s good for the mind and spirit is good for the company’s bottom line. In addition to sales departments benefitting from meditation programs, employees in customer-facing roles who meditate are more inclined to take a timeout when dealing with a difficult or frustrating situation. This is the relaxation versus fight or flight response in action!
With proven success in the workplace and studies that show how meditation changes how the brain processes information to better manage stress and anxiety, it’s no wonder that more and more companies are jumping on the workplace meditation trend. Whether that’s a space for mindful activities or guided meditation sessions, companies that offer these programs in-office experience improved productivity, higher attendance and increased employee happiness. It’s no surprise that workplaces looking to reduce stress and improve the lives of their employees are including mindfulness meditation to their wellness offerings. After all, a happy and calm employee is your best employee!