by Yaron Engler (Certificate in MindBody Healing)
If you are not familiar with the word Mindfulness it might sound to you like some kind of hocus-pocus hippy word that has no relevance to your life and definitely not to your business. But in today’s world Mindfulness has become an unseparated part of the development of employees in companies like Transport of London, Anglian Water BlackRock, General Mills, and many more.
What is it then that makes these companies focus on Mindfulness?
What is this thing called Mindfulness?
Before we talk about the companies mentioned above and why they are implementing mindfulness practices in their organizations let’s first define what Mindfulness is. Mindfulness can be described as a state in which you are deeply focusing on something or someone. Whilst focusing you calmly accept any feelings, sensations or thoughts that arise without judgment. Your whole focus is about what’s happening RIGHT NOW. Another simple way to say it that mindfulness is about paying attention. It is a practice that requires no preparation and it can be done in every moment and every situation of the day. It is a very simple practice but the impact is huge. This is exactly what the businesses above have discovered.
Many people spend most of their waking hours doing demanding jobs with a lot of pressure. It’s no secret that this pressure leads many to a point of burnout which includes the following symptoms:
- Lack of motivation
- Lack of engagement
- Lack of enthusiasm
- Fear of Failure
- Poor communication
This reality comes with high costs to companies as a result of employee turnover, absence and lack of engagement. Researches show that *presenteeism, **absenteeism and employee turnover come with the following numbers:
- The cost of staff turnover in the UK in 2017 was £3.1 billion (9)
- The cost of reduced productivity at work in 2017 was £21.2 billion (9)
- The cost of sickness absence in 2017 was £10.6 billion (9)
- In 2017 employees were operating at an average of 84% full capacity, making a lost productivity cost to the employer of £4,058.93 per person per annum (2)
- Average time lost to absenteeism and presenteeism in the UK in 2017 was 30.4 days (an increase from 23 in 2016) (3)
In the past, the way to compensate for the time, responsibility and stress level was by giving a nice paycheck and a raise every period of time. But this no longer works as people slowly become more aware that there’s much more to life than just working madly week after week to be able to afford a nice weekend or vacation once in while.
It’s time for a change.
The Impact of Mindfulness
It might seem odd that the practice of Mindfulness can make a huge change to these numbers but the facts and numbers show a very clear picture around the world. Here are a few examples:
In 2006 General Mills started to offer voluntary mindfulness programs to their employees. By the end of 2013 – 500 employees and 90 senior leaders took part in these programs. A survey that was conducted with participants showed the following (6):
- 83% of participants said they were taking time each day to improve their personal productivity, up from 23% before the course
- 82% of participants said they now made time to eliminate tasks with limited productivity, up from 32% before the course
- Among the seniors who participated, 80% spoke about a positive change in their ability to make better decisions
- 89% of participating senior leaders said they were better listeners
Transport for London (TfL) offers Mindfulness programs to hundreds of employees since 2009. Almost all those who went through the program shared powerful changes in their lives as a result of attending the program.
An important point raised by Alison Dunn, Head of Treatment Services at TfL was that the positive changes kept happening in the following 2-3 years after the program. A high percentage of participants reported changes even out of the workspace with a big improvement to their sleep patterns, relaxation, and relationships.
An evaluation that was taken after the program showed the following numbers:
- The number of days off for stress, anxiety, and depression went down by 71% over the following three years
- Absences for all conditions dropped by 50%.
- 53% improvements in happiness at work.
Anglian Water who was named Responsible Business of the Year 2017 by Business in the Community is another big organization that made a clear commitment to support the well being of the employees. They use models that put employee wellbeing at center stage in boardroom discussions and that helped improve employer brand and customer engagement. As a result, productivity went up and staff absence was reduced.
According to Chief executive Peter Simpson the benefits the company has seen are:
- For every £1 we spent, they got £8 of benefit back (less absence, increased productivity, etc)
- Private medical care costs were reduced by 50%
- Safety standards across the workforce were improved. Zero accidents recorded in 2016 for the first time for 1.24m hours of work compared with 2009 when the company recorded an accident frequency rate of 0.37 per 100,000 hours worked.
- Sickness absence per employee is now 4 compare to 5.5 days lost on average in 2012
Another example comes from Golbie Kamarei who launched the BlackRock Mediation Program in 2013 (8). She had a strong belief that Mindfulness can lead to higher performance in the stressful work environment she was part of. Over 1,400 BlackRock employees in 17 countries chose to be part of the program and the results showed the following:
- 46% experienced increased innovation and creativity
- 60% experienced increased focus, mental resilience, and better decision-making
- 63% were better able to manage their own productivity at work
- 66% experienced less stress or are better able to manage stress
- 88% would recommend the program to a colleague
- 90% of participants believe the program had a positive cultural impact
The Key For The Future
The numbers above give a clear indication that Mindfulness is now playing a major role in the future of companies and organizations. The companies that implement these kinds of practices are those who will survive and continue to grow. It is clear that the driving force for a positive change to happen needs to come from a leadership that puts the well-being of employees first. A forward-thinking leadership of this kind will not only create a successful business but will also contribute to the creation of a much better world.
*Presenteeism – The practice of being present at one’s place of work for more hours than is required, especially as a manifestation of insecurity about one’s job (1)
**Absenteeism – The practice of regularly staying away from work or school without good reason.(1)
(1) Oxford Dictionary – https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/presenteeism
(2) Research report by academics at Nottingham Business School (NBS) – https://www.ntu.ac.uk/about-us/news/news-articles/2017/10/employees-spend-2.5-weeks-a-year-working-when-ill-costing-businesses-4k-per-employee-in-lost-productivity
(5) Department of Business Innovation &Skills 2014 http://www.psi.org.uk/images/uploads/bis-14-903-costs-and-benefits-to-business-of-adopting-work-life-balance-working-practices-a-literature-review.pdf
(6) Bringing Mindfulness to the Workplace – https://www.kenan-flagler.unc.edu/~/media/Files/documents/executive-development/unc-white-paper-bringing-mindfulness-to-the-workplace_final.pdf
(7) Personnel Today – https://www.personneltoday.com/hr/mindfulness-helping-employees-to-deal-with-stress/
(8) Greater Good Magazine – https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/five_tips_for_launching_a_meditation_program_at_work