By Emil Bjerg, editor and journalist of The European Business Review
Meditation has gotten a lot of attention in the workplace in recent years, and for a good reason. From stress management to focus, creativity to innovation, meditation bolsters a number of benefits for both employees and organization. This article dives into meditation at work and ends with a guide to how your organization can successfully integrate meditation.
There has been a significant increase in businesses implementing mindfulness and meditation as key components to employee well-being. Today companies like Intel, Nike, and Google all encourage meditation in the workplace. Google was one of the first major companies to adopt mindfulness on a large scale with their “Search Inside Yourself”-program developed by a Google engineer in 2007.
And it makes sense that major companies invest resources in meditation. Let’s have a look at some of the scientifically proven benefits of meditation.
Work-related Benefits from Meditating at Work
One of the primary benefits of meditation in the workplace is its ability to reduce stress levels. More often than not, the modern work environment involves high-pressure situations, deadlines, too many damn emails, and long hours, leading to increased stress among employees. A regular meditation practice has been shown to lower stress hormones and promote relaxation, helping employees manage stress more effectively.
What’s the scientific backing? A 2015 meta-analysis by Asuero et al., including 29 studies, showed that mindfulness has “large effects on stress” while having “moderate effects on anxiety, depression, distress, and quality of life. The effects of meditation on burnout are, on the other hand, minor, which speaks for taking stress reduction measures at the workplace before it leads to direct burnout.
Improved Focus and Concentration
Maintaining focus and concentration can be challenging in a fast-paced and buzzing work environment. Remote work doesn’t necessarily remove those challenges. Meditation trains the mind to be present and focused on the task at hand, enhancing attention and concentration abilities. By incorporating short meditation breaks or mindfulness exercises, companies can help employees sharpen their focus, improving productivity and efficiency.
What’s the scientific backing? Research suggests that meditation can significantly improve focus and concentration. In a study by Mrazek et al. (2013), mindfulness training was shown to enhance working memory capacity – a key aspect of focus and concentration. The students who participated in the training also demonstrated reduced mind wandering. Notably, these benefits extended to their performance on the GRE – a standardized test often used for graduate school admissions – where they saw an average improvement of 16 percentile points.
Enhanced Creativity and Innovation
Creativity and innovation are drivers in today’s competitive business landscape. Meditation has been found to enhance divergent thinking, a key component of creativity, by facilitating a relaxed and open mindset. Regular meditation practice can stimulate creative thinking, generate fresh ideas, and foster a culture of innovation within the workplace.
What’s the scientific backing? There is research to suggest that mindfulness and meditation can have positive effects on creativity and innovative thinking. A study by Colzato et al. divided people into two groups based on their meditation experience (meditators and non-meditators) and had them perform tasks designed to measure convergent thinking – finding the single best solution to a problem – and divergent thinking – generating multiple solutions to a problem. The results indicated that the participants with prior meditation experience performed better on the divergent thinking task, demonstrating a greater ability to generate a diverse range of ideas.
Clear and effective decision-making is essential for success in any organization. Meditation enhances cognitive abilities such as clarity of thought, cognitive flexibility, and problem-solving skills. By incorporating meditation practices, companies can help employees make better decisions by reducing impulsive reactions, improving judgment, and promoting a more balanced and rational approach to problem-solving.
What’s the scientific backing? A 2014 study found that brief mindfulness meditation could improve decision-making in several ways. It reduced the influence of cognitive biases (systematic errors in thought affecting judgments and decisions), promoted rational thinking, and increased resistance to sunk cost bias (the tendency to continue investing in a losing proposition because of what has already been invested).
Emotional Wellbeing and Resilience
Emotional intelligence is a crucial skill in the workplace, allowing individuals to navigate conflicts, build relationships, and manage their emotions effectively. Meditation promotes emotional well-being by cultivating self-awareness, empathy, and emotional regulation. Employees who practice meditation often exhibit increased emotional resilience, enabling them to handle workplace challenges with greater composure and adaptability.
What’s the scientific backing?
A study from 2015 suggests that mindfulness meditation improved emotional regulation and resilience. Participants who underwent so-called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction programs showed changes in the brain areas associated with emotional regulation, pointing to improved emotional intelligence and adaptability in stressful situations.
That’s quite some benefits. The downside to meditation? Finding the time and calm to meditate consistently is difficult in a fast-paced world. Therefore, integrating meditation at the workplace is a fantastic way to invite the benefits in. If you’re a leader and you want to incorporate meditation at the office – or if you want to convince your boss to do so – read on.
How to Integrate Meditation in the Workplace?
As Entrepreneur writes, it is vital to begin with an understanding that having a spiritual practice is not the same as having a religious practice. A diverse workplace will have a variety of religions as well as people who don’t follow a religion. Everyone, regardless of their faith, should be able to engage in and benefit from mindfulness exercises.
It’s also worth approaching integrating meditation with the perspective that there are different styles, and they all have unique benefits. Some employees may prefer long sessions focusing on bodily sensations, while others might need a short active breathwork session to make it work at the workplace. There is a myriad of practices, and if done with commitment and consistency, all can offer benefits such as reduced stress, improved focus, and enhanced creativity.
While most struggle to stay clear of stress and competition at the workplace, meditation should be a tool for relaxation and mental clarity. Not a place to meditate the best or the longest – make it a space free of competition and stress.
It’s also helpful to provide training or workshops on mindfulness and meditation techniques, perhaps bringing in an expert to teach employees about the practice and its benefits. Maybe there’s even a daily meditator in the organization already? If there is no apparent meditation guru in-house, plenty of online resources can help an organization get started, from YouTube videos to meditation apps. These tools can provide guided meditations, mindfulness exercises, and other resources to help employees practice mindfulness in the office or remotely.
Meditation requires a calm atmosphere. It’s ideal to designate a room for meditation practices and make it an attractive space to be in, ideally without traffic or office noise buzzing in the background. Plants are great to give the room a recharging atmosphere, and it’s a must to make the space comfortable with meditation cushions and maybe mats, adding the possibility to stretch and do yoga.
Lastly, remember to lead by example. If the management and leadership are seen to value and practice meditation, it will encourage others in the organization to do the same. If possible, schedule meditation sessions that leaders can attend, further highlighting the importance the company places on mindfulness and its benefits.
Meditation – a Must-have Skill in the age of AI?
As we venture deeper into the age of AI, meditation might emerge as an important skill in the workplace. The rapid pace of technological advancements and the constant connectivity to digital devices has led to an information overload, contributing to mental exhaustion. In response, meditation provides a valuable tool to unplug, recharge, and develop the necessary skills to navigate increasingly tech- and AI-driven workplaces.
By cultivating mindfulness, employees might manage stress better, adapt to change, and maintain focus amidst a whirlwind of digital distractions, ultimately enhancing their capacity to thrive in the digital era.
While AI excels at performing repetitive tasks and making predictions based on large data sets, more often than not, it lacks the originality needed in creative and innovative processes. While AI can do a lot of groundwork, human focus and concentration become even more important to catch AI errors, misinformation, and flawed logic. The unique capabilities of human intelligence, particularly traits like creativity, imagination, focus, and empathy, will likely become even more emphasized and valued in the coming time. Regular meditation practice can help tap into these uniquely human traits.
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