Back in the day, it probably wouldn’t have been all that daunting to find more than a few skeptics who’d scoff at the very idea of meditation in the workplace.
Really? There? they’d proclaim, perfectly aghast. After all, it’s an environment typically far too rife with distractions like butting heads for partnerships and the coveted corner office to trifle with something as introspective as meditation, right?
But today, side by side with omnipresent spreadsheets and PowerPoint presentations, meditation has gained worlds more cachet in boardrooms. So, what’s with the about-face? Simple: companies themselves.
Many are combing for innovative ways to upgrade employee performance. Among many employees, mindfulness and meditation are emerging as staples in doing business, according to comparecamp.com.
Perhaps to show just how far the concept of meditation has come in corporate America, when most people think of perks, the usual ones like casual Fridays and Starbucks gift cards probably come to mind. Now, conventional perks are at least sharing center stage as meditation rooms have become all the rage at places like Apple, Salesforce, and Nike, according to CompareCamp.
No, it’s not merely because those Wall Street titans are trying to strut their softer sides. Ha!
Instead, consider this: Meditation improves critical thinking and creativity, studies have found. Studies have also shown that meditation steps up focus and productivity. Consequently, many employers have picked up on the power of meditation to reduce workplace stress, increase employee focus and productivity, and improve mental health.
CompareCamp reported the following:
- Two weeks of mindfulness training results in reduced mind wandering for participants prone to distractions.
- Meditation increases employee productivity by 120 percent.
- Employers who implemented meditation programs for their employees saw an 85 percent decrease in absenteeism.
- Businesses with meditation programs for employees experienced a 520 percent profit increase.
- Of employees experiencing anxiety in the workplace, 60 percent showed marked improvement upon practicing meditation.
- In 2017, 36 percent of employers offered meditation programs in the workplace; in 2018, it was 52 percent.
“[Meditation is] becoming more and more commonplace as large companies like Google role model their mindfulness programs. But there’s still a long way to go before companies allocate any budget to implementing company-wide programs,” said Lisa Wimberger, CEO of Neurosculpting Institute.
She believes meditation is hitting the mark in these hallowed halls because leaders need effective emotional regulation in order to access their brains’ “executive-command” center, which is the hallmark of good leadership. All of this requires a regular self-reflection practice such as meditation, neuroplasticity training, and exercise.” Wimberger added that it’s as vital to good leadership as any other leadership-based training program. “It helps leaders maintain equanimity, big-picture thinking, focus, and nonviolent communication styles.”
Dana Harper, senior director of People Services and HR Business Partnering at Anuvu, a provider of high-speed connectivity and entertainment solutions, said meditation has been very effective there for “getting leadership attention on the matter of stress management.” “It elicited excitement from our employee population [so] we are taking this seriously.”
The company began using meditation in May and then wound down the program, but its videos remain available on the employee portal for anyone to use at any time, Harper said.
Dan Globus, lead meditation and mindfulness instructor at the Meditation House, said that up until about 10 years ago, only the largest corporations had some type of meditation or mindfulness program for their employees. “Most employees interested in meditation had to visit local yoga centers or possibly a facility offering meditation, that is, if one even existed where the person lived.”
How times have changed. Today, small- and medium-size corporations offer meditation classes and programs to their employees, he said. Classes range from “well-being” or “mental heath days” events, where a corporation books one class as part of a one- to two-day well-being summit, to monthly programs where employees are offered access to classes that take place once a week or once a month.
Globus believes the evolution stems from the fact that human resource managers have witnessed the beneficial effects of meditation programs in the workplace. “They have seen how these programs help to reduce absenteeism, boost morality, contribute to overall employee happiness and satisfaction, and contribute to the overall health of employees.”
Whatever the case, the proof of the key role meditation has assumed in business is reflected in the positive feedback Globus has received from clients:
Hi Dan! Thank you again for such a wonderful session. I appreciate the time and energy! The feedback I received was very positive … comments such as: “That was a great meditation, Cindy! I hope we get the opportunity to repeat it again. Thanks for the initiative! —Best regards from Germany, Christiane”
Thanks, Cindy, for organizing! Born a Buddhist but it is always very interesting to learn about different perspectives/practices of mindfulness meditation. There is always more to learn 😊 Regards, Kushlani, GE Health
I met with students yesterday, and the response to your program was very positive. You should know that several students commented on feeling that they are in a better place to jump into exam week next week. A couple spoke of feeling a calmness they have not felt all year. One said that evening “was the first time I felt free from anxiety since March”! THANK YOU again for offering them [and me] such a positive experience. —Hunter College
And why not all the enthusiasm? After all, Globus characterized meditation programs as cost-effective solutions that contribute to employee satisfaction, happiness, and productivity: “Employees that meditate on a regular basis are typically healthy [and] happy in their positions; they look forward to their work, and they have good relationships with other employees.”
Still, there are those nonbelievers, who Wimberger said are more difficult to reach. “There can be drawbacks depending on the kinds of meditation programs implemented. The ones that come with major lifestyle or dogmatic implications can cause some people to resist the methods. The programs that focus more on the physiology of the practices tend to have a more mainstream and pervasive appeal.”
What’s more, not all meditation styles foster focused attention, she said. “There’s more than relaxation at stake. Good meditation programs meet the user[s] where they are at and help them either create more relaxation if needed, or more focused attention if that’s what’s needed. It’s never really a one-size-fits-all.”
Naysayers aside, people’s views of meditation have changed. It depends on how it’s presented, Globus said. “It’s come a long way. Many people who would never have taken a meditation class outside of work have become the biggest proponents of corporate meditation classes. They quickly realize that the way that meditation is taught at corporations is completely different from what they may have envisioned.”
Chuck Green has written for a number of publications, including The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Chicago Tribune, and others. He’s covered various topics, such as banking and finance, health care, real estate, food and beverages, and sports.