5 Big Companies That Promote Mindfulness at Work
Since March 2020, our way of living—and working, has been permanently altered. Over the past year, many of us have experienced a loss of control, an overwhelming sense of uneasiness and conflicting emotions. In this precarious environment, many employers are turning towards mindfulness and meditation as a coping mechanism.
John Mogerman, M.D., a psychiatrist with Henry Ford Allegiance Health, affirms that being mindful makes it possible to shift out of negative thinking to handle challenges more effectively. Increasingly, people are recognising the importance of emotional wellness in relation to their business. Over the next decade, offices will likely undergo a massive overhaul, with additional features designed to increase our overall health, performance and productivity. According to a survey by real estate services company CBRE, 80 per cent of their employees think that a company’s wellness offerings will be crucial in retaining them in the long run.
Even before Covid-19, several companies have already started initiating internal mindfulness programmes to help employees master high levels of stress. In 2016, 22 per cent of employers in the US offered such training schemes as a response to the digital-age problems such as information overload and overstimulation. These practices can help employees feel calmer throughout the day and boost workplace morale. Last year, Gallup surveyed 7,500 employees and at least 23 per cent said they felt perennially burned out, while another 44 per cent remarked that they felt it once in a while. Based on statistics, it seems that almost two-thirds of the surveyed had experienced burnout to some extent. Not surprisingly, a renewed interest in the centuries-old practice of mindfulness is on the rise, especially among top management. Here are five prominent companies that are embracing mindfulness in the workplace.
Back in 2007, former Google software engineer Chade Meng Tan assembled a team of experts in mindfulness, neuroscience, and emotional intelligence to pilot a meditation course. The aim was to help employees cultivate mindfulness and compassion. Tan created a huge stir when people witnessed the practical effects after attending: employees reported feeling more self-aware and happier at work. Even the previous Director of Executive Development Richard Fernandez noted a huge (and positive) change in his work habits undergoing Google’s mindfulness training.
Since then, Google has continued to offer these courses to their employees, with thousands participating each year. The sessions, named “Search Inside Yourself” (SIY) have expanded, and over 100,000 people in 50 countries around the world have completed the SIY programme. Apart from guided meditations, Google pioneered the concept of silent lunches and silent rooms, where employees could mentally recharge. The company now has seven different meditation classes, all of which contribute towards building mindful mental habits.
Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF)
Over the past decade, law firm Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) has been actively advocating the practice of mindfulness. Initially, the mindfulness programme at HSF was designed to support employees who were unable to cope with the pressure of working in the legal industry. But subsequently, mindfulness became regarded as a valuable technique that could enhance the quality of work as well as prolong attention span.
More than 200 of their employees have completed the six-week-long mindfulness programme, which includes weekly mindfulness sessions and a daily ten-minute guided meditation. Internal research showed that these activities led to a 10 per cent increase in employee performance and an 11 per cent increase in employee communication skills. Such mindfulness initiatives prove that supporting the wellbeing of staff and increasing quarterly profits are all connected.
For CBRE, workplace wellness is not simply a passing trend, as it looks set to be a core initiative for most places in the future. Through using evidence-based wellness designs and technologies, CBRE’s goal is to create a space where people feel happy, energised and inspired. Their offices in Los Angeles, Amsterdam and Madrid are all guided by the principles of The WELL Building Standard, a certification conceived by an American real estate developer Delos Living LLC that established the concept of “wellness real estate”. What this means is that a building should be developed with people’s wellness at the centre of the design, while sustaining the environment.
Their new, upgraded office layouts include stretching and relaxation areas, fresh vegetable juice stations, and even personalised wellness coaching services. There are designated spots for meditation, yoga, massage and even areas where employees can take power naps. In addition, CBRE’s staff received noise-cancelling headphones to help counteract excessive background sounds that could be distracting. During a healthy office research survey, 66 per cent of their employees said they felt more energised and 63 per cent felt much happier. One participant added that the silent headphones were “definitely a keeper.”
Mindfulness might not be a universal practice at Goldman Sachs yet, but the movement is gaining traction. The concept of mindfulness has been integrated within the firm’s wellness seminars, and leaders are actively promoting the use of the meditation app Headspace. Many employees reckon that in years to come, mindfulness will become a way of life.
Apart from stress management, the company has decided to teach their staff how to develop resilience through mindfulness. Everyone is encouraged to meditate regularly to help them remain present and think clearly. Even Goldman Sachs Board Member William George is a huge believer in mindfulness. “The main business case for meditation is that if you’re fully present on the job, you will be more effective as a leader, you will make better decisions and you will work better with other people,” he said.
Multinational engineering company Bosch might seem like an unlikely candidate onboard the mindfulness bandwagon, but they have introduced several initiatives in that direction. These include creating a more flexible organisational structure and working schedule. Bosch believes that it’s important to shift their management approach to fit the changing times. Petra Martin, who oversees leadership development at Bosch Automotive Electronics, believes that mindfulness is an essential lever to move offices from a culture of control to a culture of trust. “Communication has fundamentally changed since we introduced our mindfulness training to more than 1,000 leaders in the organization,” he noted, adding that employees were overall more satisfied with these changes.