Mindfulness at Work: A Win-Win

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Mindfulness at Work: A Win-Win

There is growing evidence about the benefits of mindfulness in the workplace. The good news is that the benefits appear to flow pretty equally to both the employee and the employer. Health insurer Aetna, ranked among America's largest 100 companies by revenue, is known for its mindfulness program including free classes in meditation, mindfulness and yoga. And the results are impressive, as reported in the New York Times:

"More than one-quarter of the company's work force of 50,000 has participated in at least one class, and those who have report, on average, a 28 percent reduction in their stress levels, a 20 percent improvement in sleep quality and a 19 percent reduction in pain. They also become more effective on the job, gaining an average of 62 minutes per week of productivity each, which Aetna estimates is worth $3,000 per employee per year. Demand for the programs continues to rise; every class is overbooked."

Many practitioners of mindfulness meditation report feeling more connected to others and more compassionate. Aetna's CEO Mark Bertolini credits his practice and the book "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" by Thomas Pinketty with his decision to raise wages for Aetna's lowest paid workers by a considerable 33 percent.

Mr. Bertolini said that without his experience with yoga and meditation, he might not have been inspired to act on his impulse. "It's made me question what I do and how I look at the world," he said. "It's made me consider my influence and how I treat people."

There are critics however. Dr. David Brendel writes in the Harvard Business Review about the risks of a 'bandwagon' mentality when it comes to mindfulness. He says mindfulness may be reaching a cult status where it crowds out other extremely effective tools for managing stress, making decisions and achieving peak performance.

Bottom line? Perhaps everything in moderation – even mindfulness.