Buzzwords come and go in the corporate world. Many are short-lived fads championed and then dropped in a matter of weeks, but occasionally a workplace trend comes along that stands the test of time. Mindfulness is the latest buzzword to infiltrate the corporate world, and this one is here to stay.
Mindfulness is a type of meditation that focuses attention on breathing as it flows in and out of your body, allowing you to think and feel sensation more clearly. This method of mental training is growing in the West, and is following in yoga’s footsteps to become a billion dollar industry.
Business leaders are increasingly incorporating mindfulness training into their workplaces, bringing in wellbeing experts and investing in dedicated online meditation courses. But why are CEOs placing so much faith in a Buddhist practice that has traditionally sat so far away from the deadline-driven business environment?
Mindfulness can reduce stress in employees
Too much stress creates agitation and anxiety, and according to new data, depression and anxiety levels are on the rise in the UK. The Office for National Statistics found that overall satisfaction with health – including mental health – is on the decline, with 19.7% of respondents admitting to experiencing anxiety or depression, in contrast to 18.3% the year before.
Much of this stress is work-related. In the UK, nearly half a million people in the UK have work-related stress at a level that’s making them ill. Aside from employee wellbeing, this also presents a problem in business terms – absenteeism cost UK businesses more than £100 billion last year.
Mindfulness can be used to alleviate stress in employees, encouraging them to focus on each thought individually and tackle tasks with more clarity. US scientists have found an eight week course of mindfulness, involving daily classes, can lower stress hormones by 15%. Importantly for CEOs, lowering stress levels among employees will reduce absenteeism and ultimately enhance productivity.
Meditation can improve concentration and memory
A study commissioned by Marks & Spencer found that 96% of us are “living life on autopilot”, with the average Brit making 15 decisions without consideration each day. This includes trivial things like choosing what to wear each day or what to eat for lunch, but also extends to decisions made about work. For instance, completing an unimportant task without considering the impending deadline of another.
Mindfulness has been found to boost working memory and encourage concentration, particularly when it comes to focusing on completing one task at a time rather than juggling multiple. As mindfulness focuses on awareness and the flow of present movement, it encourages people to be conscious of their actions as they are doing it, helping employees to meet deadlines more comfortably and gain a greater sense of prioritisation.
Mindfulness can benefit CEO’s as well as staff
For senior executives and CEOs, it’s easy to spend so much time safeguarding the wellbeing of their employees that they completely neglect their own. This, combined with the need to constantly juggle clients, switch between projects and attend meetings, can lead to alarmingly high stress levels.
Various studies have demonstrated how being mindful or practicing meditation can reduce cortisol levels in the brain, the hormone responsible for causing stress. It can also help to thicken grey matter in the brain, improving the ability to process information, and trigger the release of serotonin and endorphins, chemicals closely linked to feelings of happiness and euphoria. With results like this, it’s no wonder the likes of Richard Branson and Arianna Huffington are huge advocates of practicing mindfulness.