By Christy Cassisa, J.D.
Director of WorkLife Integration
UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness
If you follow workplace mindfulness in the news, you’ve had quite a bit of reading material in the last few years. Businesses of all types have embraced the fact that the wellbeing of their employees improves the health of the company. One quarter of large US companies have launched stress reduction programs of some sort, and many of those are also incorporating mindfulness and meditation trainings. Many well-known names such as Google, Aetna, General Mills, AOL Time Warner and Target have brought mindfulness and meditation to their people. Mindfulness is being hailed as the next great thing in the efforts to improve the performance, health and overall wellbeing of employees and leadership alike.
Mindfulness In Leadership
Both formal studies and informal self-reports show that leaders who practice mindfulness have more mental clarity and flexibility, are able to listen better and as a result, make better decisions. Enhanced emotional resiliency and self-awareness arise as a natural byproduct of mindfulness practices, and these in turn can lead to more effective and inspirational leaders.
One such program you may have read about in the Financial Times (The Mind Business) was developed at General Mills. Janice Marturano, deputy general counsel, phrased it this way: “It’s about training our minds to be more focused, to see with clarity, to have spaciousness for creativity and to feel connected. That compassion to ourselves, to everyone around us- our colleagues, customers- that’s what the training of mindfulness is really about.” More than 400 employees and 250 executives have participated in the GM program, and the results are amazing: 83% of participants reported increased personal productivity and of the senior executives who took the course, 80% reported improved decision-making and 89% reported that they had become better listeners.
For executives, learning to do nothing to achieve more is counter-intuitive. But what they often find once they begin to look is that the very drive that has lead them to success thus far blinds them to the next steps to progress further. And this clouded vision is precisely what mindfulness meditation can clear.
When it comes to employees, the benefits are also well-documented. Company-wide stress reduction programs are nothing new, but with the addition of mindfulness and meditation, employees have shown dramatic improvements in stress levels and overall wellbeing. Meditation programs have shown employee results such as:
- Reduced anxiety and increased overall sense of calm
- Enhanced ability to bounce back from emotionally charged situations
- Enhanced coping abilities related to everyday stress as well as severe or acute stress encounters
- Increased creativity
- Improved memory
- Increased focus (staying on task longer)
- Improved teamwork, increased respect and support for colleagues
- Strengthened immune system
- Lowered blood pressure
And these results are simply the performance and health-related measures. At Google, employees reported improved marriages, reversed decisions to leave the company, and more. The benefits to the employee far exceed those measured by standard health and productivity scores.
Return on Investment
What, you say, is the value of this kind of program? What does my bottom line expect to get in return for the outlay of time money and effort into a mindfulness meditation program?
According to the Gallup Business Journal, wellbeing is an employer issue. By the numbers, they reported:
- People who have thriving wellbeing have a 35% lower turnover rate than those who are struggling; in a 10,000-person company, this represents $19.5 million.
- Employees with high wellbeing have 41% lower health-related costs compared with employees who have lower wellbeing. In a firm that has 10,000 employees, this difference amounts to nearly $30 million
So incorporating these measures, your ROI of each benefit may be measured as so:
- Stress Reduction: As a result of reducing the stress of your employees, look for a reduction in health care costs and absenteeism rates.
- Improved Employee Well-being: As a result of investing in your people, look for increased retention rates, improved employee satisfaction and overall engagement measures. And as an interesting additional measure, you might look to your customers’ experiences as a result of this investment in your employees’ health and well-being: look for increases in sales and improved customer satisfaction surveys.
- Strengthened Leadership: Leadership Development programs have many measures to use to evaluate the effectiveness of executives, ranging from 360 evaluations to overall company performance. When executives are operating more effectively, the entire company benefits in innumerable ways.
In case you have not been immersed in the news of mindfulness in the workplace, I’ve summarized many of the recent articles below. Please comment on this post to contribute additional articles as you find them so that other readers can have access to all the latest information and resources!
Note: Christy Cassisa is a former attorney, who has recently been appointed as the Director of WorkLife Integration for the UC San Diego Center for Mindfulness. As she notes, “With all of the excitement surrounding mindfulness in the business community, we feel it is time to opt in. In this effort, we are thrilled to announce the launch of the UCSD Center for Mindfulness WorkLife Integration Program. Now you can bring the Center’s expertise to your office with a program or workshop tailored for your business or group. If you have an interest in learning more, contact Christy via the Center for Mindfulness at cfmworklife.ucsd,edu.
Workplace Mindfulness Articles
Developing Mindful Leaders– Harvard Business Review, Dec 2011
Meditation Makes You More Creative– Science Daily, April 2012
OK Google, Take a Deep Breath– New York Times, April 2012
How to be Happier at Work– Inc., May 2012
How to kill a thought in a good way– Forbes, June 2012
Meditation Can Keep you More Focused at Work– USAToday, July 2012
Be more mindful for a better workplace– Chicago Tribune Aug 2012
Mindfulness is not a Cure, it’s Better– HuffPost, Aug 2012
The Mind Business– Financial Times Magazine, Aug 2012
Mindfulness-based stress reduction effects on moral reasoning and decision makingJournal of Positive Psychology, Sept 2012
A Guide to Mindfulness at Work– Forbes Oct, 2012
Mindfulness Helps you become a better leader –Harvard Business Review Oct 2012
Multitasking Loses its Cool: Mindfulness is Now In – Investors.com, Oct 2012
The ROI of Practicing Mindfulness at Work– Under30CEO.com, Nov 2012
Meditation finds an ommmm in the office– Globe & Mail, Nov 2012
Mindful Multitasking– Levy, U Washington
Why Mindful Breathing Works– Huffington Post, Nov 2012
Lead by Achieving Nothing. Seriously. Forbes, Nov 2012
Practicing Mindful Leadership– Training & Development Magazine, March 2013
Mindfulness can improve leadership in times of instability– The Guardian, Aug 2013