Over the last few years, more and more businesses have taught mindfulness to their employees, or encouraged their workers to learn mindful meditation.
You might think that any business that uses mindfulness is probably some kind of hippy-dippy fly-by-night selling knitted yoghurt and handwoven cheese! You’d be wrong. Some of the largest and most famous companies in the world use mindfulness. Apple, Google, Goldman Sachs and Sony have all incorporated aspects of mindfulness into their thinking and routines.
The reason is simple — mindfulness has many different benefits for business. Mindfulness promotes flexible thinking, greater awareness and better decision-making, all of which contribute to better job performance. Aetna, the health care company, embarked on a 12-week pilot mindfulness programme for over 200 employees. They found that the workers who had learnt mindfulness gained 62 minutes per week of extra productivity. Translated into figures, that added an estimated $3,000 per employee each year to the bottom line. Not a figure to be sniffed at.
This makes some people suspicious that companies use mindfulness to ameliorate job stress while demanding more and more of employees. Certainly that is a possibility, but mindfulness has penetrated the upper echelons of the business community too. Intel has used mindfulness as a leadership practice and claims to have seen improvements in productivity and job satisfaction.
A number of studies examining the effects of mindfulness found that employees using mindfulness meditation report a significant reduction in stress, as well as improved communication skills and more innovative thinking. Stress, however, is one of the most pragmatic reasons for companies to encourage mindfulness. Stress is not only a silent killer, it is costly to businesses as well — the World Health Organization says stress costs American businesses a whopping $300 billion per year.
Whether companies are using mindfulness because they want to promote employee welfare, or because they are concerned with profits doesn’t really make a huge difference — either way, they end up with happier and more productive employees. It is a win for everyone.