Yes — there is business value in workplace meditation
Most of us have been there; everyday challenges, from trying to get the kids to school on time, or battling through murderous commuter traffic, all of which ensure we arrive at work feeling a little stressed before the workday starts. And that is before we feel the pressure of that day’s deadlines, KPIs, meetings, and that not very mindful manager we are lumbered with. Stress gets in the way of our focus, our ability to think clearly, and hinders the decision making we need to perform well at work. It steadily chips away at our health and well-being, and this everyday stress is quickly made much worse by larger calls on our resilience from events such as bereavement, difficult relationships, a challenging appraisal, or even just that very awkward customer. Emotional duress and stress can swiftly build up from causing minor work performance issues to ill-health and costly absence.
With all this going on in our lives, wouldn’t you want a simple technique to combat stress? If you are a business leader, wouldn’t you want a business tool that requires no investment to improve work performance, employee engagement and well-being?
The good news is that just such a solution is available — everyday meditation for everyday people, in everyday workplaces; the powerhouse of stress relief!
Everyday meditation is not mystic or restricted to a special few
Many of us think of meditation as a mystic practice that probably requires a mountain top, an orange robe, and some delightful chimes, Where we have come across people practising meditation they may have been our more alternative friends, or super successful and high-profile people such as Arianna Huffington, found of the eponymous blog; billionaire hedge fund manager Ray Dalio; Marc Benioff, founder of salesforce.com; or Oprah, so wealthy and famous she no longer needs her surname! These people (and the monks on the mountain top) are not those we not associate with our everyday lives, and so we also do not associate their practice of meditation with our everyday activities.
But this is so far from the truth; we can all meditate, and we can all do it quite easily. I started by sitting comfortably and taking and counting eight deep breaths, after being inspired by Zendays on Facebook. You cannot get more everyday than this — sitting and breathing!
Meditation does not involve magical wizardry, but it can and does have amazing and beneficial effects. There is an increasing number of medical and academic studies that demonstrate the benefits of meditation for everyday folk such as us. Whether at work, at home, or in the park, it is not complicated and is very straightforward. It does, however, require practice and consistency. To access the benefits of meditation it needs to become part of our daily routine. I started as a sceptic, but immediately found meditation enjoyable, and started to notice real benefits a couple of weeks into regular, simple daily meditation. I have a lot yet to learn, but I already feel so much calmer and more focused at work.
So if it is good for us as individuals and good for business, how do we get it into the workplace?
We could sit around waiting for HR to launch a mindfulness programme, or …. we would just get started ourselves. This is what I have found useful:
Do a little reading about the topic and find some personal inspiration (here is where I started, on Facebook)
Get started with a phone app that provides guided meditation (I have been using Insight Timer and Headspace apps).
Practice at home first, before trying at work; it will make it easier for you when you do take it to work.
Tell your manager and colleagues what you will be doing and why (rather than asking permission).
Find a comfortable place and a regular time to practice at work, perhaps as your workday begins.
Use your guided meditation phone app with headphones, this will help your meditation focus and stop you from disturbing others.
Take small steps first, just a few minutes and build up from there. I started with three minutes, but within a month was up to twenty minutes.
Experiment and find out what works for you, and what does not (I quickly discovered I was not ready to be guided by fifteen minutes of Buddhist mantra chanting, but got great benefit from beginners step-by-step guided meditations).
When people ask what you are doing (and they will), let them know what and why; be honest about where you are in your meditation journey — just beginning, or reaping lots of personal and business benefits. Offer to help them get started — spread the word and create a workplace meditation community.
As people start talking about and demonstrating the benefits through greater focus, better work relationships and ultimately stronger business performance I am convinced that business leaders will become enlightened and supportive — start by relaxing and breathing at work today.
— By Colin Whalen, Director at LintonWharfe, and member of Consult Yorkshire