Have you ever been part of a team which worked like a perfectly oiled machine? A team where everybody communicated effectively, where colleagues were mutually supportive, and where individuals felt positive about what they were doing? As every sports manager will tell you, a good team is better than the sum of its parts.
Research (HS Kindler - The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 1979 - jab.sagepub.com) strongly suggests that groups who meditate together work more effectively as a team and are faster at solving problems together than a control group. Let’s take a look at why this might be and what employers might do to facilitate meditation groups in the workplace.
What does meditation involve?
At its most basic, meditation involves taking time out to focus on one particular thing. That could involve listening to sounds, focusing on bodily sensations, focusing on the way the breath moves in and out of the body, or a whole range of other techniques. Regular meditation produces a surprising number of benefits, including improved powers of concentration, a sense of calm, clarity of mind, better focus, increased positivity an increased ability to respond effectively to challenges.
Why does meditation produce all these benefits?
Neuroscience research has shown that people who had been on an 8-week meditation course displayed important changes in the pre-frontal cortex of the brain. By regularly practicing focusing, they had changed the actual connections in the brain. These changes were visible on MRI scans. It makes sense. The more you practice anything the better you get at it. People who meditate daily, focusing on just one thing, such as the sensation of breathing, will be training their brains to be less easily distracted generally.
At home or in the workplace?
Every employer wants employees who display the positive qualities which regular meditation can bring, but some might argue that meditation is not really a suitable workplace activity. Isn’t it something which people could be encouraged to do at home, after office hours? The difficulty with this approach is that it misses out on all the positive benefits to be gained from meditating with your team mates rather than as an individual. A group which listens to a guided meditation together and then spends time discussing the experience will inevitably grow in empathy towards each other and are much more likely to work effectively together afterwards.
Facilitating a workplace group
It’s a good idea to have someone running the group, whether it’s an outsider or a willing employee--ideally someone who has been on a meditation course. A room will need to be set aside at a time that’s convenient for most people. The lunch break is a good time to meditate because meditating at this point will help reduce stress and increase clarity mid-way through the working day. Cushions or comfortable mats should be provided, or participators can sit on chairs if they prefer. Ideally, meditators should maintain a posture of dignified calm, with the back supporting itself. Most groups would benefit from following a guided meditation and then discussing their reaction afterwards.