Mindfulness in the office — help or hype?

May 23, 2018

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A good salary is no longer expected to be enough to attract and retain talent. Now many high-skilled professionals, especially Millennials, are asking for more. Lots of companies have introduced mindfulness solutions to create a good work-life balance for their employees while also making them more productive.

A recent Accenture study found that “emotional factors like engagement, quality of life, and status are just as important, if not more so, to employees than income or benefits”. While some companies have particularly generous health-care packages or flexible working times to ensure their employees’ well-being, others are trying to make the actual workplace more humane and likeable. Meditation and other practices of mindfulness are becoming mainstream at many offices around the world.

These ideas have expanded as companies have sensed business benefits in mindfulness. Several years ago there were just sporadic experiments with corporate mindfulness, such as breathing exercises before meetings or encouraging employees to be “here and now” several times a day. Now things have clearly changed — big companies are working on exhaustive mindfulness programmes of their own.

For example, American healthcare company Aetna reported to The Atlantic that since the introduction of its mindfulness programme, it has saved “about $2,000 per employee in healthcare costs, and gained about $3,000 per employee in productivity”, because mindful employees are more focused and less stressed-out.

Aetna’s mindfulness program is simple, consisting mainly of yoga and meditation classes. Google offers emotional intelligence courses for employees and many Wall Street companies now have a special meditation room. And some companies take mindfulness in the office to a whole new level.

Chanje, a Los Angeles-based electric van manufacturer, expects all of its employees to spend 20 per cent of their time on personal development, and fill in a weekly journal of reflections and personal objectives. Completion of these objectives is tracked and the results are included in annual assessments that influence bonuses. Bryan Hansel, Chanje’s founder and chief executive, admits to The Financial Times that several employees left the company after he introduced the programme, yet he regards it as ultimately successful, saying that “productivity is higher than at any of the four previous companies (he) founded during his 30 years as an entrepreneur”.

While intensive self-reflection might not be for everyone, mindfulness programmes are widely welcomed by employees, not just bosses. “Employees are hungry for this stuff, because the pace at which we’re working, it’s driving people into the ground and any breath of fresh air is really, really welcomed,” David Gelles, author of the book “Mindful at Work” tells The Wall Street Journal. So watch out and relax! Mindfulness may be coming to your office soon.

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