By Jeff Revoy
Chief Operations Officer & Co-Founder
Managers like to see the numbers before investing in new tools to improve their business and get the most from their workforce. So, here is a number to sit with: in 2010, employers in the U.S. lost a collective $300 billion from workplace stress-induced absenteeism, productivity losses within the office, and sick leave. According to the Center for Disease Control, 60% of lost work days are due to stress. Sixty Percent!
These numbers are staggering and should cause every executive to consider why their employees are experience such significant rates of stress. It’s difficult to say, as many people tap into their reptilian brain at work, refusing to voice their stress for fear of repercussion. This makes sense when you consider we are taught to leave emotions at home from an early age. There’s no crying in reading, writing, and arithmetic, is there? But it’s likely that at least one member of your team has cried at their desk while trudging along with the task at hand.
With that in mind, you probably never thought the solution to this problem was in real estate and an Agile workplace! As the realization that the workplace is more than a cost center, companies are looking at how to manage the workplace in a more dynamic approach.
More and more, businesses are mapping out space for quiet, meditation, or energy rooms in their office plans. Stress causes distractions at work and low employee retention. A low-cost method for reducing stress and increasing productivity is through a regular meditation or mindfulness practice.
Zero to Stress-Free in 5 Minutes
Spending as little as 5 minutes each day to be present is directly related to improved focus, memory, mood, hearing, and more. One Harvard MRI study showed that regular meditation actually rebuilt the brain’s grey matter in 8 weeks. While we don’t know whether the relationship between meditation and productivity is causative or correlative, we do know they work in tandem.
Here is what we do know meditation improves:
Decision Making. The expression “sleep on it” isn’t just something your parents or partner say to get you to stop nagging. When our minds quiet, whether through sleep or a mindfulness exercise, our emotional clouds pass and we’re able to act on something more rationally than we would while frustrated or stressed.
Emotional Intelligence. The workplace has always been a collaborative environment but now more than ever the quality of our work depends on our relationships within our team. Meditation strengthens your emotional awareness, both of yourself and those around you, making you more empathetic and receptive to the needs of other. Stress, on the other hand, causing you to lash out on those around you without consideration of their needs or mood.
Presence. When your mind wanders, especially at work, it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back to the task. When we are stressed, our minds are rarely where they should be. Meditating to helps you focus on the needs or tasks in front of you, rather than replaying what you did yesterday or planning for the following day.
Memory. Everyone has a lot of their plates—that’s why they’re stressed. But as our stress grows, our memory shrinks and we can’t even recall what we said five minutes ago. Mindfulness removes the clutter from your mind so you remember the importance stuff.
Listening. Tied to presence, we regularly let our minds wander while someone else is talking. Rather than asking your colleagues to constantly repeat themselves or put it in writing, regular meditation will make you a better listener; and because your memory is also improving, you’ll be able to store these conversations in your clutter-less mind.
Sense of Purpose. Stress naturally induces the “what’s the point?” lamentation. You hit your breaking point and lose track of your reason for doing something. Meditation connects you to the answers within you and gives you clarity on your purpose.
Leadership. Businesses are constantly asking their teams to step up and take initiative. Mindfulness gives you the confidence to do it. Our energy can make an impact when we learn to remain in control over our emotions and thoughts. Leadership isn’t just a quality for the C-Suite. Everyone in the office must show they can lead.
It’s one thing to build out a room specifically for quieting and refocusing one’s mind. But, like most grand plans, this room can quickly turn into a storage space or extra meeting room. It’s on managers to push their employees to make mindfulness part of their day. Companies like Google and Apple have hired meditation coaches to introduce the practice to their teams and give them the time in the day to sit quietly, clearing out the messes in their heads.
The return on investment is huge. The ability to focus on a single task at a time saves minutes each day and creates a more engaged workforce—and engaged employees are said to create 19% more operating income for the company. While the motivation for improving your employees’ well-being shouldn’t always depend on a line item in the budget, it is the incentive many CEOs need to implement programs and devote valuable real estate.