Mindfulness at Work: Will it catch on?

Meditation at work Everyone’s talking about it. Nowadays you hear the word ‘mindfulness’ used in the most obscure places; by big brands and official organisations. Massive corporations are jumping on the bandwagon and you’ll see ‘mindfulness’ exercises being pushed upon employees in most workplaces. But what’s the big deal? Can a few minutes of meditation really change your day?

In 2007 Dr Yi-Yuan Tan from Dalian University of Technology, China carried out a study which concluded that a meditation practice can reduce stress and increase attention to detail in just 5 short days. It went on to show a reduction in anxiety related issues, depression, fatigue and anger.

In 2015 35% of workplace illnesses were stress related, resulting in a 43% of all sickdays. These figures are pretty shocking. People are becoming increasingly aware of their health and happiness (rightly so) and leaders of organisations are finally understanding the importance of a happy healthy workforce.

The answer seems so simply in hindsight, your employees are feeling the stresses of modern day life, meditation reduces the symptoms of stress and makes employees sharper and more attentive. Let’s roll out meditation exercises in the workplace!

Unfortunately the reality isn’t always as simple as it sounds. So why aren’t more employees jumping at the chance to Workplace Meditationmeditate at work?

  1. Most industries are made up of an older, old-school age group and meditation is for hippies.

People don’t like change and they also don’t like being told what to do, especially if they have worked in that company for 45 years and the new HR manager is a twenty-something, green juice guzzling weirdo. You probably aren’t going to persuade Eric from finance to sit in lotus for the next 20 minutes breathing his stresses away. Eric prefers to have a pint and a moan.

Unfortunately, sometimes health isn’t valued until sickness comes. And it isn’t until that point that people are willing to consider changing their ways. Never force people to join a meditation session unless they actively want to do so, the benefits just won’t be the same and they’ll go off thinking meditation is a bit rubbish.

Let people become open to it in their own time. Openly share the rewards you have reaped from your own practice but don’t expect Eric from finance to feel the same. Choose your battles.

  1. Meditation makes people feel self-conscious.

It’s not a usual environment to be in with your colleagues. You can hear everyone’s breath, your thoughts are screaming so loudly in your head that surely Sandra from legal can hear them and how do you know everyone has really got their eyes closed, what if they are just sat watching you struggle to meditate?

Mindfulness at workPeople within the workplace like to have a leader, so if you are introducing meditation into your office you need to keep it within a format your workforce are used to. Hire a meditation guide, someone who will talk your employees through a 15-20 minute practice. It will make them feel a lot more comfortable to be guided, less lonely and it will give them the tools to go off and practice in their own time.

My first workplace meditation was one of those awkward moment where the manager got really excited about trying something ‘experimental’ with his workforces and had us all sit around in his office whilst the ‘teacher’ guided us through a ‘meditation’. It turned out that she wasn’t a meditation teacher after all, but had listened to a few YouTube videos and then labeled herself a guide. We were then all asked how we felt afterwards. Just plain weird.   If you’re employees are happy to try meditation at work don’t ask them how they feel afterwards. Let it all settle and then maybe follow up with some feedback later in the day.

Explaining some of the benefits of meditation can make it more appealing to people. Benefits such as;

  • Reduces anxiety by teaching people the importance of controlling their breath
  • Stops symptoms of stress (such as headaches, tightness in the chest, tingling in the hands and feet etc.)
  • Makes it easier for people to concentration on one task at a time
  • Makes people feel more compassionate
  • Makes for a kinder workplace
  • Increases the happy hormone
  • Reduces insomnia
  • Encourages a healthier lifestyle
  • Brings a sense of calm to modern day living
  • Helps you feel more in control
  • Slows the ageing process
  • Reduces high blood pressure

And all you have to do is sit still, control your breath and focus. It really is that simple.

1 Comment

  1. June 4, 2018 / 12:28 pm

    Hi Sarah, just stumbled upon your blog – nice stuff! I agree it’s important to let people become comfortable with meditation in their own time. You’re so right that HR people need to be careful not to shove it down people’s throats. I’ve been teaching yoga and mindfulness inside companies here in Berlin – there is always someone who is resistant. And that’s fine. I find yoga provides a nice way in for some people. Meditation seems too religious for some, while yoga seems more practical. Through yoga, as they become more embodied, they become more receptive to meditation. We put together a video about office yoga that you might like: https://www.zenyoga-berlin.de/blog/office-yoga/

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