Meditation at Work: The Key to Beat Stress
As the world of commerce is constantly evolving in light of globalization and ever-changing market, business leaders and workers face tremendous pressure to stay on or reach the top. More workload is required within the same shift, resulting to greater pressure and stress.
Studies show, however, that stress actually decreases productivity among employees. A 2005 study by Edward Hallowell “Overloaded Circuits: Why Smart People Underperform” published on Harvard Business Review describes how stress specifically affects brain processes. When the brain is on stress mode, the prefrontal cortex, the part responsible for decision-making and problem-solving, turns over the control to the “lower part” of the brain which is responsible for survival instincts. Stress therefore decreases intelligent thinking and creative problem solving.
Stress, by putting the brain in fight-or-flight mode, also causes cardiorespiratory problems, digestion problems, and weaker immune system. It also contributes to depression, suicidal ideation, insomnia, and general feeling of hopelessness.
We certainly don’t want to have depressed and stressed employees. Low productivity among employees drastically affects companies, as suggested by the American Institute for Stress (AIS). According to them, U.S. companies are losing about $300 billion every year due to employee absenteeism, low productivity, employee turnover, and direct medico-legal and insurance fees.
Meditation at Work
More and more companies are now using meditation as a tool to beat stress in the workplace. A recent study “Effect of Transcendental Meditation on Employee Stress, Depression, and Burnout: A Randomized Controlled Study” by Sanford Nidich and colleagues show that a daily 20-minute Transcendental Meditation (TM) for four months could have possibly lowered stress level among teachers and support staff of a school for children with behavior problems. Nidich, a researcher at the Maharishi University’s Institute for Natural Medicine and Prevention in Fairfield, Iowa, furthered that participants felt less stressed and more energetic after a few days.
Transcendental Meditation involves the use of a meaningless sound called mantra as a way of calming one’s self. It can be done individually or in a group. Some companies that offer it provide private rooms which employees can use for meditation for some minute each day, while some provide meditation sessions with an accredited trainer. Contrary to what many believe, engaging in meditation does not require one to adopt a specific belief or ideology. It is as simple as secluding yourself for a few minutes each day and allowing one’s self to relax through a mantra.
Benefits of Meditation at Work
Meditation at work has a number of benefits, including:
- Improved concentration, productivity, and general well-being among employees. With controlled stress levels, employees are able to focus on their tasks and achieve maximum productivity. They are also able to make better decisions and creative solutions to problems. Higher productivity among employees means higher productivity for the whole company. Further, employees who receive empathic benefits from companies such as meditation courses are more likely to stay loyal to the company. By gaining their trust, your company can increase employee retention.
- Smoother communication. Stressed people often do not have the clarity of mind that non-stressed ones have. Clarity of mind keeps one focused on goals, and helps employees and managers communicate more effectively. Effective communication enhances efficiency in the workplace while also facilitating healthy and informative discussions.
- Creates a vibrant, dynamic workplace. Google, well-known for its fun and dynamic workplace, is one of the top companies that offer meditation and other wellness programs for their employees. Such atmosphere in the workplace is conducive to learning, brainstorming, and coming up with innovative ideas. Meditation at work can help create such atmosphere in your workplace by promoting positive mood, attitude and outlook among employees.
A company of any size can certainly benefit from offering employee-friendly interventions such as meditation courses. As more companies start experimenting with meditation, we are yet to see more cases of successful integration of meditation in the workplace.
For further information on the topic here is a 9 min video showing how meditation can reshape our brains by Sara Lazar at TEDxCambridge 2011.
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1. Edward Hallowell, “Overloaded Circuits: Why Smart People Underperform,” Harvard Business Review, January 2005.
2. Sanford Nidich, EdD, Charles Elder, Francis Moriarty, Randi Nidich “Effect of Transcendental Meditation on Employee Stress, Depression, and Burnout: A Randomized Controlled Study“, Maharishi University of Management, 2014.