I am often asked by company officers and owners why they should bother having a program for employees to learn mindfulness and meditation. Quite often I hear, “My employees are here to work, not to sit around and contemplate their navels”. I usually just smile at that one as if it were the first time I had ever heard it.
The questions regarding the implementation of a mindfulness training and maintenance program are certainly legitimate so I thought it answer the question of why bother doing this.
I have been teaching mindfulness and meditation as a psychotherapist and trainer since 1978. I have worked with thousands of people over the years at corporations, government agencies, hospitals, research programs, small businesses and groups as well as with most of my psychotherapy clients. My guided meditation and mindfulness audio programs have been utilized successfully by many thousands of individuals, therapists, physicians, hospitals, corporations and organizations all over the world.
In all these years I have accumulated a great deal of experience with the results of mindfulness and meditation practices. There are hundreds of articles with the results of research into mindfulness and meditation as well as projections for the financial benefits of implementing mindfulness into a company’s culture. In this article I am going to relate my own experiences over the past years rather than repeating the same research results. I have, where appropriate, added some facts and figures to reinforce the point that a mindfulness and meditation program is essential for every company. Not just as a one-time training but an ongoing program that creates a mindful culture within a company.
What is mindfulness? Very simply, Mindfulness is paying attention to the moment with all our senses. Paying attention to everything objectively, without judgment, without preconceived beliefs and notions, without expectations. Mindfulness is our natural state, we are born mindful. Infants and young children are constantly mindful of the moment but as we get older we become distracted by the thousands of experiences and reactions to those experiences we then store like a living library in our minds and bodies. But that mindful state is always available to us if we are willing to sit quietly and to pay attention to the moment. Like any other exercise, mindfulness takes practice. Athletes depend upon mindfulness to be in ‘the Zone’ for peak performance even without calling it mindfulness. I have found that few minutes required to practice mindfulness meditation on a daily basis is extremely valuable and sets a positive, productive tone for the rest of the day.
What is the experience of mindfulness like? The experience of mindfulness varies, depending upon the individual, but usually has some similar attributes; objectivity, peacefulness, understanding, clarity of mind, openness, self-awareness, empathy and relaxation.
One of the other questions I hear often is; “OK, so how will mindfulness and meditation improve my business”? There are numerous benefits for companies and organizations that implement a mindfulness and meditation program. Here are some of those.
Great innovators and inventors know that there is an intangible universe filled with new ideas, solutions and inventions. They draw upon the ideas in this place and bring those ideas into the world and make them tangible. A state of mindful meditation is the key to the door to this place. Most innovators would not call it mindfulness though. Some recognize it as the moment just before drifting off to sleep or during a daydream. No matter what one calls this moment, it is the same key that opens the door. Mindfulness meditation allows us to open that door with more ease without having to wait for ‘just the right moment’. The clarity of mind and critical thinking that mindfulness facilitates also allows us to discern whether the world needs or is ready for the innovation and can help us know how to bring it market and make it profitable. As an inventor and innovator I tap into that universe of ideas on a regular basis as do all other innovators. With training, anyone can accomplish this same feat consistently. This one benefit of mindfulness alone far outweighs the cost of a mindfulness program in a company.
Health and Stress Management
Any manager knows the tangible financial costs of lost work days and errors brought on by poor health and unmanaged stress in the workplace, (currently over $80 billion per year in the USA alone). Mindfulness and meditation have been proven to reduce stress and stress related physical and psychological illnesses including heart disease, hypertension, chronic pain, burnout, low morale, and depression. Executives and employees who practice mindfulness and meditation are better able to deal with stress and have fewer lost or unproductive workdays. This has been my experience over many years and trainings. It has also been thoroughly researched and documented over the past 20 years.
Error and Accident Prevention
When it comes to errors and accidents there are direct, indirect and hidden costs for a company. Most of the direct costs can be covered by insurance but not the indirect and hidden costs. The indirect costs are estimated to be 3 times the insured costs and hidden costs are estimated by insurance companies to be 4 to 10 times the insured costs. A record of errors or accidents will raise a company’s insurance rates and can erode customer and investor confidence.
Most errors and accidents occur when we are not paying close attention to the task at hand in the moment…. When we are not being mindful. This is a fact of life that most of us, who have experienced an accident or made an error, know. When we are mindful of the moment, when we are paying attention, we are far less likely to cause an accident or make an error. Many companies pay tremendous amounts of money on training for their employees but fail to train them in the most basic skill required for error and accident prevention. Mindfulness should be a part of every employee training program whether it is for an executive, accountant, engineer, programmer, driver or line worker. Errors or accidents of any type can be very costly or even fatal for a company. Implementing a companywide mindfulness program and training employees how to consciously be mindful of the moment and the task at hand can reduce errors and accidents.
During mindfulness meditation we can become much more aware of differing points of view and experience. We also learn how to view every situation objectively and clearly without the preconceptions that often cloud our views. During mindfulness meditation we are also able to understand the best way forward in any circumstances that we have some knowledge of. Of course this ability does not come from one mindfulness meditation session. It takes practice but is achievable by everyone who practices mindfulness meditation consistently. Mindfulness can help ward off some conflict but when conflict does occur mindful individuals can diffuse the conflict and find productive solutions.
Mindful teams work better together. My experience training teams of people in mindfulness meditation has demonstrated that teams that practice mindfulness meditation together are more cohesive, productive and creative. Mindfulness meditation consistently enhances team brainstorming sessions. Again, this is not a one off process. It takes consistent practice. The more a team practices mindfulness meditation together the better they get at it and the more positive results they will see in their efforts. My suggestion to teams I have worked with is to begin each day with a short group mindfulness meditation. I usually recommend they work with one of my guided meditation audio programs to make it easier to meditate and so they are all on the same page when they begin their workday.
Creative Problem Solving
My philosophy is that every problem has at least one viable solution. When no solution can be seen to a situation it is time to sit quietly and to be mindful. To look and to listen to the moment without any judgement, desire, preconceptions or goal. This is what I train people to do. And it works consistently. As a marketing specialist I utilize mindfulness for the benefit of every client and am able to find marketing, positioning and branding solutions for everyone. Like the universe of innovations and ideas, there is a wealth of solutions to every situation available to us if we are willing and able to be mindful and to listen in this special way.
One of the many benefits of mindfulness is increased empathy. I have heard numerous individuals speak of empathy as if it were a weakness. Empathy is actually quite the opposite. It is a great strength and an asset. Consider the person with deep empathy in a negotiation being able to accurately feel the emotions of the people sitting across from them. Knowing their reactions, their motivations their honesty or lack of trustworthiness. I have been hired by companies to do just that for them when they do not have someone on their team with that ability. With mindfulness meditation almost anyone can learn to increase their empathy and ability to read others. This is an invaluable tool for anyone involved in negotiations, especially executives who must negotiate for their companies each and every day. Some of the most successful executives I have ever met have privately admitted to me that empathy is one of the primary reasons for their success. To develop enhanced empathy requires listening and paying close attention to the moment – mindfulness. It also takes training and consistent practice.
Critical thinking is the ability to examine any situation, belief, statement or event with objectivity and clarity and to discover the truth. Unfortunately this process and ability are no longer taught in most schools so we must learn it on our own. Fortunately, mindfulness meditation facilitates critical thinking. In this day and age critical thinking is more important than ever. A necessary skill for success and even for survival. Mindfulness is paying close attention to the moment without judgement, preconceptions, beliefs, goals or desires – Exactly the same attributes required for critical thinking. Mindfulness meditation training will bring critical thinking abilities to every employee for the benefit of the company and for themselves in their own lives.
I have listed only a few of the benefits of mindfulness meditation here. There are many more. If you have any questions or wish to have further information regarding mindfulness meditation implementation in your organization, feel free to contact me.
© 2017 Jon Shore
All Rights Reserved
For more information or to reprint or repost please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.