Making the Case for Meditation at Work

Written by Jeff Cannon

The idea of meditation in the workplace sometimes sounds like the tagline to some colossal cosmic joke. It paints an image of orange robed power-brokers doing business while incense wafts in the background, or of be-suited Buddha’s on cell phones focusing on compassion over profits. But in looking at the realities of the modern work culture this couldn’t be further from the truth.

When the practices of meditation and mindfulness are removed from the religious associations that are often attached to them, they have been proven to help create stronger teams, to increase productivity and to reduce intra-office tensions. They have proven to be very powerful business drivers that help people focus on the tasks at hand, increase managerial effectiveness, and support the creation of a healthy corporate culture that businesses thrive in. Most important though, whether you are a business owner or an employee, they can create the kind of corporate culture that you actually want to work in.

Every employee and every executive comes with a complex matrix of education, skills, training, and habits that they bring to the office. Yet, after all the research and due diligence is done, they all make their final business decisions based on two factors – fear of failure and the chance to win. These are the same survival skills that were hard wired into every human almost 40,000 years ago. Fear of being eaten and the opportunity to bring home food is what made our ancestors fun toward a rustling in the bushes or away from it. Today after all of the experts weigh in, there is never a sure thing. So again, people either move forward on a decision or kill an idea based on the fear of being fired or the prospect of a raise. And unfortunately, more often than not, fear rules out and people hide behind the safety of their self-generated silos.

So imagine how productive a team could be if they weren’t so concerned about protecting their own turf, but instead truly had the interest of their company at heart? Think what could be done if they learned how to separate themselves from their old programming and started making decisions based solely on the merits an idea or an opportunity had for the business. The answer is obvious, and is exactly what the time-honored practices of meditation and mindfulness can bring to a company.

A great study into the power of meditation occurred in 1983 after R. W. Montgomery, the owner of a chemical plant in Detroit, instituted Transcendental Meditation with fifty-two of the company’s one hundred workers. These ranged from managers to employees who worked the line. A program was implemented where each meditated for twenty minutes before coming to work and again for twenty minutes in the afternoon on company time.

The results were well recorded. In three months, employees stated they had more energy and were able to handle stress better. They also had fewer physical complaints and lower cholesterol levels. Over the next three years these results improved and expanded. It was confirmed that absenteeism fell by 85%, productivity rose 120%, injuries dropped 70%, and profits increased by 520%.*

In fact, since 1930 there have been over 1500 separate studies that are related to meditation and its effects on its practitioners. And these are just the ones that were fully completed. Some statistics on people who meditate include results like:

  • A decrease in heart rate, respiration, blood pressure and oxygen consumption.
  • A reduced feeling of anxiousness and nervousness, with a greater feeling of independence and self-confidence.
  • 75% of people suffering from insomnia were able to fall asleep within twenty minutes of going to bed after starting a daily meditation program.
  • Women with PMS showed an improvement in their symptoms after 5 months of daily reflection and meditation.
  • A decrease in the thickness of the artery walls which effectively lowers the risk of heart attack or stroke.
  • 60% of anxiety prone people showed marked improvements in their anxiety levels after 6-9 months of daily meditation.

So, you might ask, what is the down side to creating a corporate culture where meditation is the norm and cooperation overcomes competition? As far as I can tell there is none. Oh, except one – overcoming that prehistoric fear of change that your 40,000 year old programming still controls you with.

With that in mind, isn't it time to evolve your work place by say 38,000 years? All you have to do is incorporate a 2,000 year old practice called meditation into your routine. The culture will change itself.

And yes, you are free to leave the robes and incense at home.

Oh, and welcome to the 21st century.

* Case Study derived from 1995, Jane E. Stevens, article in the Los Angeles Times

image via natenavasaca/flickr

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