Did you know that an unhappy workplace leads to 46% more expenses for the organization? Or that stress is now recognized as the #1 health threat in the United States? Stress in the workplace is linked to absenteeism, presenteeism, lack of productivity and focus, health care costs, and turnover – all of which cost companies a lot of money.
According to the American Institute of Stress, the biggest form of stress is workplace stress. This affects the health and well-being of many individuals personally and professionally as well as the bottom line for many organizations. To synthesize some of the principles of mindfulness, we created the 4 C’s – a simple yet profound path to help people understand, integrate, and apply these practices.
Research on the neuroscience of mindfulness substantiates what the sages have known for ages: mindfulness practice builds an increased state of calm in the mind-body. Drs. Richard Davidson, Sara Lazar, Jon-Kabat-Zinn and many other scientists have a shown profound changes in the brain with meditation and mindfulness practices. These changes are expressed as increased focus and concentration, less emotionality/reactivity, increased memory, calmer demeanor and improved immune system functioning. In the workplace this translates into a positive impact for the bottom line: less absenteeism and presenteeism, reduced health care costs, improved productivity, creativity and innovation. Ask Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini. When he instituted policies and opportunities for Aetna employees to practice mindfulness, Aetna realized a 7% overall drop in company healthcare costs!
Mindfulness builds the quality of compassion leading to more emotional-intelligence and regulation. As mindfulness teachers, we stress to our students that you must send compassion to yourself first and then others. So analogous to being on a plane: the oxygen mask must be applied to yourself first before you are able to skillfully help others. Dr. Emma Seppala from Stanford University and other researchers have shown how compassionate and empathetic leaders can rally and galvanize teams more skillfully, rally a group towards a common goal, build loyalty and resilience, and produce high performing departments.
Dr. Kelly McGonigal, in her research in Positive Psychology, has found that high-functioning, successful teams have a 6:1 ratio between positive and negative thoughts, behaviors, and focus. Compassionate teams work better together, feel understood, are more willing to collaborate, to help one another in order to work together for common vision and mission.
Employees need clarity to perform at their highest level and to feel successful about their contributions. Clarity is connected to judgement, wisdom, and prioritization of goals – all essential qualities for employees to possess. With chronic stress, the brain literally goes through an emotional hijacking making it impossible for a person to think clearly. The amygdala (emotional/fear center) literally overtakes the cerebral cortex. Unclear communication, pervasive in many organizations, is just one of the casualties of this dynamic. Mindfulness meditation and principles literally interrupts this hijacking so that people have access to their full potential for clarity, communication, decision-making, and problem-solving. All of this contributes to more effective and successful employees, leaders, teams, and businesses.
We are making choices constantly in our professional and personal lives. When practicing mindfulness, these choices are more likely to be informed by our highest and best selves. Why? Mindfulness practitioners literally have a larger gap between stimulus and response, allowing that person to make more informed choices. With this practice, employees and leaders shift from habitual reactionary patterns to more skillful, conscious responding to whatever presents itself. This shift is key to a happy, healthy workplace because habitual reactionary patterns can cause both immediate and long-term damaging effects. Employees making better choices in their personal and professional lives is a win-win for everyone!
Educating and empowering organizations with mindfulness practices will not only raise the ceiling of productivity, collaboration, and innovation, but also will impact the bottom-line around stress, healthcare costs, absenteeism, presenteeim, and turnover. In today’s competitive marketplace, these practices and principles may be just what is needed to take your employees, leaders, and business to the next level!