In a fast-paced work environment where time is money, taking a break to sit still and focus only on the rise and fall of one’s breath can seem like a waste of time. The idea of spending 10 minutes or more away from urgent duties and the constant tug of deadlines may seem like a drag on productivity and the bottom line. It may run counter to the very idea of being “on the job.”
Yet, if meditation in the workplace may at first sound antithetical to employers’ top priorities, there is also a strong case to be made for it. It can make your employees better at what they do, by increasing their productivity and mental health and wellbeing. That means less time away from work for inpatient rehab or other sick needs. Here are just four persuasive reasons why more employers should encourage their employees to practice meditation.
Less Mistakes on the Job
New findings from Michigan State University, published in the journal Brain Science, revealed that a form of meditation known as “open monitoring” changed brain activity in a way that made study participants less prone to error. “Open monitoring” is a fancy term to describe a basic type of meditation in which you tune inward to become more mindful of mind-body sensations. The idea is non-judgmentally observe what is happening, from thoughts and emotions to physical sensations.
While better focus is certainly related to less mistakes on the job, it is also broader, referring to an employee’s capacity to concentrate on and stay engaged with one or more tasks without getting distracted. Just as an employee who is less error-prone is better for productivity, so is a worker who can stay focused on a project until it is done.
Research using brain scans has found that in people who meditate, the region of the brain known as the “ventral posteromedial cortex” (vPMC) chatters less with spontaneous thoughts and displays less mind-wandering. In people who do not meditate, this region of the brain is not as stable. This finding, among others, has led scientists to conclude that meditation improves mental focus and concentration.
More Problem-Solving Creativity
A large body of research has found that meditation opens the mind to new ideas and increases creativity and a capacity for thinking outside the box when attacking problems. An article in Harvard Business Review found that just 10 minutes of mindfulness is enough to inspire more creativity.
It is hard to think of a work context in which creative problem-solving would not be a desired trait in any employee. Whether they are a top executive or a low-ranking factory worker, employees who are well-equipped to triage challenging situations will always be an asset.
Stress is the culprit behind a wide range of physical and mental illnesses that require treatment and time away from work. Stress can also make your employees more susceptible to on-the-job injuries.
Meditation, on the other hand, reduces stress-related symptoms, according to a Stanford University School of Medicine study—by at least 30 percent. And, in one study of a Detroit-based, chemical manufacturing firm that required its employees to meditate, the results were stunning: in three years’ time, absenteeism fell by 85 percent, injuries dropped by 70 percent, and productivity rose by 70 percent.
The takeaway? Meditation is even good for that bottom line.