Close your eyes and imagine your perfect workplace. Your boss expects you to take a proper lunch break and you can make use of a meditation pod whenever you’re feeling stressed. Team meetings begin with a quiet group breathing exercise and your desk has a great view of trees and plants with lots of natural daylight. There’s an office running club and on-site yoga. The chair you sit on is designed to improve your posture. Far from being a dream-like scenario, this kind of working environment is now being offered by a surprising spread of businesses, from corporate multi-nationals to tech start-ups, who are putting employee wellbeing at the centre of their ethos.
The reason ‘wellbeing’ has migrated from the marginal to the mainstream, says Arianna Huffington, is that businesses are finally seeing it for what it is; ‘It’s the best way, indeed the only way, to maximize not just happiness but fulfilment and productivity, creativity and yes, profit. It’s the only sustainable way forward, not just for individuals but for companies, communities and the planet,’ she argues. A passionate advocate of the benefits of mindfulness, she has introduced meditation rooms at the Huffington Post. BP and eBay also have meditation spaces in their offices, Goldman Sachs uses mediation pods and everyone from accounting blue-chips to drug companies, and tech leaders Google, Facebook and Etsy, have embraced a new culture of calm.
If you look to the research, the benefits of such corporate makeovers are clear. When a group of people are required to pool their creativity, talent, ideas and skills, an atmosphere of calm, where employees are encouraged to develop a greater sense of self awareness, starts to look a prerequisite for productivity. Feel good office culture is becoming the workplace holy grail for HR managers wanting to boost job satisfaction. A sense of being ‘in it together’ is a powerful team-building glue and can be generated by the increased empathy and self-awareness the mindfulness delivers. Introducing a calm approach at work doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming either. It can be as simple as a short daily meditation or listening to a mindfulness recording.
And far from making you so blissed out that you no longer care about doing a good job (one of the common anxieties business people have about mindfulness), a 2012 study on HR staff by US researchers found that after eight weeks of training in mindfulness meditation, workers had higher levels of concentration . Their memory and focus had also improved. Rediscovering a sense of calm can also increase the capacity for creative thought and ensures we are less focused on habitual negative thoughts – the sort that can be distracting and destructive.
Extract taken from ‘Calm’ by Michael Acton Smith