Offices and co-working spaces are increasingly facilitating meditation in the workplace. Why? Because the workplace can be a stressful environment, with half a million people suffering from work-related stress in the UK, according to the Mental Health Foundation’s report this week. The government’s Health and Safety Executive explains the six main areas of work that tend to cause people stress: demands, control, support, relationships, role, and change. Studies have shown that meditation can have a positive impact in reducing stress levels and improving our ability to deal with all of these triggers.
Meditation Helps Reduce Stress
Research has shown that different forms of meditation can have significant impact in reducing stress levels. For example, the 8 week programme Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction has been shown to reduce stress levels by 40% . Mindfulness meditation can reduce stress in a number of ways:
- It reduces our “negativity bias”, our tendency to dwell more on the negative than the positive
- By bringing our attention to the present moment, it stops us from “pre-living future problems” and “reliving past worries”
- It regulates our body’s flight or fight response by activating our “rest and response” parasympathetic nervous system.
These effects can help alleviate the main sources of stress, and this is no less true in the workplace. It is easy to understand therefore why by practicing meditation we can develop a more relaxed state of mind – we worry less about future deadlines, ruminate less on meetings that may not have gone as planned, and instead get on the requirements of the moment.
Workplace Meditation Improves Relationships
Much of our work performance relies on how we communicate with others and to maintain positive working relationships, particularly between supervisors and managers and the employees they oversee. In this context, research into the effects of mindfulness on workplace relationships has demonstrated that mindfulness practice clearly improves the quality of communication between individuals and the overall quality of relationships.
“It’s possible that a more mindful individual would be more attentive to others, would communicate more effectively, would find himself or herself in conflict with others less often, or would express more selfless emotions like compassion and empathy.”
Workplace Meditation can increase Productivity
Several different studies have shown a link having a generally mindful disposition, where one is naturally more present in the moment more often than others, and a variety of different workplace outcomes.
“People who measure high in trait mindfulness demonstrated higher job performance across several different job types, such as restaurant servers, supervisors, MBA students, middle managers, health care workers, admissions treatment teams, and psychotherapists.”
People high in trait mindfulness were also shown to have higher academic performance than people low on trait mindfulness, and directed mindfulness training was also shown to significantly increase performance ratings compared to groups that received no training.
The effects of sustained mindfulness meditation practice can be linked to a number of mental states that can eventually lead to a healthier, more productive workplace. A 2016 study “Contemplating Mindfulness at Work” tells us more about these results of workplace meditation:
- Better concentration: our minds wander less, and we can focus more on the task at hand
- Less emotional reactivity: we respond more coolly to negative experiences, so situations are contained and don’t get more tense
- More flexible cognition: we generate more creative responses to problems
- Less automaticity: we less likely to be “triggered”, avoiding habitual (and perhaps not so helpful) responses
- More mind space: we are able to hold more things in mind at once when required
All such factors contribute to a more positive, focused, calmer state of mind where people live, work and relate better in their daily lives. Companies such as Havas, Nike, Google, Facebook have all recognised this fact and have therefore introduced workplace meditation programmes for the benefit of their employees.