Vacationing through Mindfulness and Meditation

Are your employees skipping vacation this year, like 25% of their fellow Americans?  Executives may be too busy, and 60% of employees say they can’t afford it, according to a Bankrate survey,  but whatever the reason, we know that not taking a vacation is one cause of worker stress, creating healthcare cost burdens for many organizations.   

What if there was a simple yet proven way to help your people manage tension and anxiety while increasing productivity and contributing to the overall wellbeing of your organization?

Enhancing mind power in 20 minutes per day

While baby boomers might associate meditation with Keysian psychedelic-transcendentalism, today meditation and mindfulness practices are mainstreamed by companies around the world. In fact, in 2017, reported that of the $15.1 billion alternative care market, meditation and mindfulness training accounted for 7.4%, or $1.1 billion, much of this spent by U.S. corporations!  The practice has also become one of the fastest-growing digital health trends, with over 1,500 apps available to help devotees get their relaxation on.

The terms meditation and mindfulness are often interchanged, but in reality, researchers define three types:  1) focused attention, 2) open monitoring (including mindfulness meditation), and 3) self-transcending meditation.  According to a report by Beth McGroartyfrom the 2019 Wellness Trends, from the Global Wellness Summit, each of these methodologies has been shown to impact various areas of the brain with different positive effects.  Understanding the different options can help determine which would benefit employee development:

Mindfulness practices help people learn to concentrate, listen, and be consciously present in the moment, focusing on reality without judgment and without the distractions of thoughts and emotions that tend to intrude.  For instance, if you find yourself wondering what to have for lunch while your employee is explaining what happened with the budget, you might need some mindfulness practice!

Meditation impacts a different part of the brain, and practitioners seek to release stress and enhance creativity and decision-making through stillness, transcending thought to reach a state of pure, calm awareness. 

Exercises can include focused awareness, guided imagery, and breathing methods.  More active forms of meditation include Kundalini yoga and walking meditation.  Practitioners recommend 10 – 20 minutes per day, and exercises can be practiced at a desk, lying down, or during a stroll at lunchtime.  

Mindful meditation, not just a new-age trend 

If you are wondering if mindfulness practices are just a New Age response to stressed out, overworked people, think again.  Though the ROI is hard to measure, and one study found that too much Zen can de-motivate workers doing mundane tasks, it’s hard to deny extensive research showing that personal benefits might collectively strengthen the entire organization.  David Karlin observes in Strategic HR Review (“Mindfulness in the Workplace,” 2018) when mindfulness practice was offered to employees at two east coast companies, productivity, morale, empathy, and stronger teamwork markedly improved.  

Individually, a meta-analysis of MRI studies on meditation practices showed evidence of neurobiological changes impacting self-awareness and self-regulation, as well as attention, executive functions, and memory formations (Boccia, et al., (2015).  Combined with widely reported proven health benefits related to reduced workplace illness, including lower blood pressure, anxiety, and stress, maybe it’s time to consider implementing meditation or mindfulness practices in your workplace. 

Encouraging Meditation Practices at Work

If your people are in need of a workcation, give them a mindfulness and meditation pick-me-up! Here are three approaches to consider:

  1.  Create a 5-day, 15 minutes per day, meditation challenge for your employees.  To measure your results, create a before-and-after questionnaire (stress rating, headaches at work, difficulty sleeping, etc.).  Next, choose one of the many apps available for your employees to download like the free Insight TimerInscape, or Calm.   Select a time for their meditation break, then kick-off practice week with healthy snack room goodies and don’t forget to measure results and applaud your newly Zen co-workers!
  2. Follow the examples of Google, Unilever, and Nike and offer free yoga to your employees at lunch.  Choose an instructor who specializes in workplace wellness, so you get the right balance of exercise, meditation, and mindfulness training.
  3. Include mindfulness training for all new employees to strengthen morale, critical thinking, communication, and emotional intelligence.  Emmie Stamell and David Brendel M.D., Ph.D., recommend “structuring the training over seven weeks, with an initial two-hour introductory session followed by six weekly one-hour sessions” (Training Industry, 2017).  

Whatever wellness practices you implement, your executives and employees can benefit from a more present, positive, and healthy state of mind.  And if employees are skipping vacations this summer, why not implement one of the plans above?  Just 15 minutes a day can fix those no-time-for-vacation blues, according to a study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology.   Meditation and mindfulness practices are mainstream, so isn’t it time to add these powerful brain-boosting tools to your workplace wellness arsenal?