How to Increase Employee Well-Being: A Surprising Solution

Apr 07, 2016 - Joe Matar
Does this sound familiar? You rush into the office for an early meeting. You have an important project deadline in two days, but you've barely started the project. You get distracted by urgent emails and small fire drills all day. You even forget to eat lunch. And for the rest of the day, you just can’t seem to focus. Ironically, you leave the office not one step closer to meeting your project deadline — you are frustrated, tired, stressed and annoyed. You are not alone in this struggle to stay focused, engaged and productive. In fact, a recent Harvard study found that, on average, our minds wander 50% of the time, eroding productivity and overall well-being. If you struggle with this, many of your employees are likely struggling with this too. HR managers want the best for their employees. In fact, effective HR managers recognize that employees are the company’s most valuable asset. It is not enough to attract talent – companies must retain and look after that talent. Yet, between the deadlines, the to-do list and the meetings — you have limited time and money to get it all done. More often than not, employee well-being programs get sidelined. Well-being is the catalyst companies need to cultivate engaged, thriving employees who perform at their best every day. In fact, a recent Gallup's research study reveals that when companies add a well-being focus to their engagement program, it has an accelerating effect on employee performance overall. A new movement to improve employee well-being is expanding across established and early-stage companies alike. This movement is transforming the way we live and how we lead our organizations. And it’s proving to boost the bottom line. What is this movement? (Hint: This is a good time to focus and stop checking emails.) Mindfulness.

Mindfulness Training

Companies like General Mills, Starbucks, Google, Ford, and LinkedIn all have implemented mindfulness programs among their employees ranging from the factory floor to the executive suite. With highly successful business leaders including Jeff Weiner, Bill Ford, Larry Brilliant, Oprah Winfrey, and Ray Dalio advocating for mindfulness, it’s hard to ignore. The advantages of implementing a mindfulness training program at work are significant. Recent studies have linked mindfulness with increased focus, enhanced creativity, and lower stress levels. You can obtain a mindfulness and meditation program at a low cost and with limited resources, yet you can achieve a high gain in employee well-being. You can implement mindfulness training in a variety of ways — from simple to robust programs. Typically, these programs include sitting meditation and might also include some mindful movement or yoga. The following three examples show how leading companies have implemented innovative workplace mindfulness programs:

Target: Keep It Simple

At the retail giant Target, a simple offering called, “Meditating Merchants” pioneered by Mikisha Nation, a human resources leader, was set up in 2010. The training is open to all employees and has so far attracted 500 participants who simply participate in a guided meditation once a week at lunch time.

General Mills: Nurturing Leaders

General Mills implemented a program, known as Mindful Leadership, which uses a mix of sitting meditation, gentle yoga and dialogue to settle the mind. Several hundred executives have taken part in the program. The idea is that calmer workers will be less stressed, more productive and even become better leaders. In every building on the General Mills campus, you'll find a meditation room equipped with a few cushions for sitting practice – and yoga mats where employees can grab a few minutes of calm in between their meetings.

Aetna: Measured and Refined

Aetna introduced mindfulness and gentle yoga practices to hundreds of thousands of their employees and had comprehensive studies done on the benefits of the program. After 10 weeks, the self-reported stress levels went down for these employees. In addition, biometric measurements such as heart rate went down too. Aetna reportedly has saved about $2,000 per employee in healthcare costs, and they gained about $3,000 per employee in productivity with the implementation of this single 10-week program.

Mindfulness: It’s Hard to Ignore

With a growing body of research on the physical and mental health benefits of mindfulness, and top CEOs touting the benefits, mindfulness is hard to ignore. Leading companies — across a variety of industries — are including mindfulness and meditation training as key pillars of their companies’ well-being programs. Sometimes, just one simple change can make a big shift in your company. Why not give it a try?   [avatar user="HeidiHill" size="thumbnail" align="left" /] Heidi Hill is a well-being educator who writes about wisdom in the workplace. If you would like to cultivate more mindfulness in your life grab her free Mindful Living Guide: 5 Simple Mindfulness Practices to Help you Focus & Instantly Increase Your Energy