Have you ever stopped to notice how often you aren’t really where you
are but you’re in your head instead? You might be in a meeting, or in traffic, or doing a task but your brain is envisioning the argument you had with your partner, the upcoming employee evaluation, or creating a new recipe or, really, anything, besides what you’re doing? We’re so busy multi-tasking that we’ve gotten to the point where we don’t even notice anymore how often our bodies and are heads are in different places. We think that’s kind of normal. But if you think about it, you wouldn’t want to know that the person who drives your kids’ school bus is having the same problem. Or someone who is doing surgery on your loved one. Or even the person who is making your lunch in the restaurant kitchen. So why do we accept this in our own companies when research shows there’s a good business argument for mindfulness?
Mindfulness, as most of us know, is when you’re really paying attention to what you’re doing rather than imagining other scenarios while you’re doing it. A lot of organizations, especially in Silicon Valley, have started embracing mindfulness as an approach to improving productivity, increasing employee retention and just making people happier and better employees. They have company-sponsored meditation sessions and classes on understanding yourself. But the Valley isn’t the only place organizations are looking into mindfulness and meditation as a tool to improve business functioning. In 2014, INSEAD, a global graduate business school, introduced research showing that meditation was helpful in reducing people’s biases. That research focused, in particular, on people’s tendency to want to redeem sunken costs. And an article in The Atlantic pointed out that companies from General Mills to Goldman Sachs have introduced mindfulness meditation programs. Aetna said its mindfulness program has saved the company $2,000 a year per employee in healthcare costs and increased productivity per employee $3,000 a year. Now there is an ROI-best outcome.
Leaders and employees often have to make decisions all day. They may be huge decisions, like changing a product line, or laying off employees. Or they may be small decisions, like how to treat each other while working on a project. But many of us make these decisions while our heads are full of all kinds of other junk that winds up getting projected onto the decision at hand, impacting the trajectory of the company. We may be working on something for one client while thinking about something we have to do for another client who stresses us out, or who provides a greater share of our revenue. That means whatever we produce for the first client won’t be up to par. The impacts of those decisions and behaviors can be far reaching, especially if they’re the norm in your company.
Research has shown that most decisions begin in the brain’s emotion center and we merely use our logic centers to validate the decisions we’ve already made. You want employees to be focused on what they’re doing right now. You really don’t want your hiring, training, design or accounting decisions influenced by what’s going on between that employee and their partner, bankers, mothers, or the person in the next cubicle.
With such a solid business reason for implementing mindfulness campaigns, it’s a little bit amazing that more organizations don’t do so. But words like mindfulness and meditation still have a stigma attached to them. Heck, even the Silicon Valley folks were quick to assert that this was not some “hippy dippy” movement on their part. Companies may be reluctant to introduce corporate meditation hours…at least until the early adopters prove that their meditation and mindfulness are helping them kill it in the market. Then other employers will be mindful of what’s actually happening around them.
We work with companies on a project basis or on retainer, providing a custom level of HR help designed for your business, with offices in Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. Contact me at Caroline@valentinehr.com or call (512) 420-8267.