There’s a reason mindfulness has become something of an ‘it-word’ in the modern workplace. Although it’s long been labelled as niche, something ‘hip’ or abstract, increasingly science is providing evidence of mindful meditation as a universal strategy to help anyone enhance their ability to connect, perform and solve problems in their everyday lives.
For employers, integrating mindful practices into corporate culture presents the opportunity to support your employees’ overall wellbeing, as well as boosting engagement and productivity in the workplace. It’s one activity that comes with an array of scientifically-supported psychological, cognitive and physical benefits.
Here’s 10 facts research has uncovered that make introducing mindful meditation into your workplace not just worthwhile, but essential:
1. Reduced absenteeism and presenteeism
We all have off-days, but incorporating mindful meditation practices into the everyday culture of your workplace could help you to increase attendance at work. A seminal study by a Detroit manufacturing company found that absenteeism fell 85% among staff who practiced meditation for just 20 minutes at the beginning and end of their work day.
With mental ill-health increasingly becoming one of the driving forces behind employees’ decision to take time off work, this 40-minute addition to the workplace routine could make a significant difference to your employees’ readiness to show up to work everyday.
2. Increased attraction and retention of skilled staff
In a competitive world seeking highly-skilled staff, mental health support is the latest sought-after addition giving employers the edge. When it comes to retaining that staff, a 2014 study by Dane and Brummel found that mindfulness in the workplace significantly reduced resignations among staff in stressful and fast-paced hospitality environments where the rate of turnover intention is especially high.
Employers will know the value of highly experienced or skilled team members, but the expertise they bring often means demands placed on them are high, and a healthy workplace culture will provide – and by all means mandate – strategies to relieve that pressure.
3. Increased creativity and performance
There’s a common misconception that you have to be an expert before you can enjoy the benefits of mindfulness, but the research continues to suggest otherwise. A study conducted by Harvard Business Review showed as little as 10 minutes of guided meditation before a brainstorm could boost creativity levels in those with no previous experience in meditation. It’s a quick and simple way to stimulate cognition and help those around you to work at their best.
4. Supports individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions
Having mindfulness be an integral part of the workplace is a great way to look out for staff members who may already be struggling with their mental health. Meditation has been linked to reduced anxiety levels in 60% of people, as well as to lessening the effects of insomnia and post-traumatic stress.
Encouraging mindful meditation will not only directly support employees with their mental health challenges, it will help establish a culture where mental health is openly addressed, making it a more supportive environment for everyone.
5. Increased engagement, collaboration and team morale
Practicing mindfulness has been shown to increase productivity in employees by as much as 120% – that’s effectively doubling rates of achievement at work and naturally boosting morale.
When overseeing an extended project or working remotely, (especially in a post-pandemic world) it can be difficult to maintain a sense of interest or dedication at work. In fact, a recent study of millennials in the workplace found a lack of ongoing engagement was one of the main barriers to productivity.
It’s also a great team building exercise: The New York Timesrecently investigated the benefits of group meditation to improve collaboration among staff.
6. Improved focus and attention span
Did you know that practicing meditation for just 4 days can already have a noticeable impact on your attention span?
A study in the Consciousness and Cognition Journal found that even with no previous experience of mindfulness, employees can access the benefits of improved focus with brief training. In a world with so many distractions, being able to hone your focus back on a task is a key skill for the 21st-century employee, and meditation can help.
7. Reduced stress and inflammation
As research continues to uncover the devastating impact of work-related stress on the body, it’s more important than ever to have stress-relieving practices in place that support employees and their overall physical and emotional health.
Research continues to explore not only the mental but physical benefits of mindfulness on the body. In a study by UC Davis, mindfulness from meditation has been shown to actively lower cortisol levels, helping to avoid the onset of work-derived stress and burnout.
8. Increased working memory
While it’s generally thought that your memory can only decline as you get older, 50% of people who practice meditation do so to enhance their memory – and there’s a good reason why.
Just 30 minutes of mindful meditation a day can boost the production of grey matter in the hippocampus part of the brain, which enables new learning and memory-building.
9. Greater capacity for emotional self-regulation
When it comes to building emotional resilience, an article by the American Psychological Association (APA) suggested that people with as little as one month’s experience in mindful meditation gain the ability to disconnect more effectively from situations that are emotionally upsetting.
This isn’t about a lack of empathy, rather it’s about the ability to control our reaction over an emotional situation and focus on the task at hand. For employees in the workplace, this could mean a more productive compartmentalisation between work and private lives, or the ability to resolve conflict more effectively and efficiently.
10. Increased capacity for connecting with others through empathy and compassion
As if there weren’t enough individual benefits attached to practicing mindfulness, there’s also evidence mindful meditation can help induce a more compassionate attitude towards others. Meditation has long been associated with having a positive effect on how we relate to those around us, including an increased sense of empathy. A recent study reported in The Atlantic found that an eight-weeks of daily meditation can triple the tendency for benevolent behaviour in a person.
While the contemporary workplace looks set to weather many more changes in the years to come, the profile of mental health as a key to workplace satisfaction and productivity is here to stay. With that in mind, the benefits of mindful meditation cannot be overlooked. Consistently, this timeless practice is proving itself as a simple and self-sufficient 21st century solution to help you to support your most valuable asset – your employees.
Co-authored Asha Gatland & Tania Burgess