The fast pace of technology, changing work titles and the increasing productivity expectations of today’s workplace are stressful. Rapid change can cause fear, anxiety and depression.
Transcendental Meditation (TM) techniques are one way to provide substantial mental and physical health benefits to you and your employees. Meditation can keep the mind clear, aid in physical immunity, increase productivity and encourage a positive outlook.
Besides that TM has few rules to be successful, is simple and cost-effective to incorporate into the workplace. In just 10 to 15 minutes a day, meditation can improve collaboration, resilience and overall health.
The negative effects of stress
While stress is often thought to be an external problem in the workplace itself, it is, in fact, an internal impression, or imbalance, left in physiology. It results from our interpretation of, and consequent response to, challenging events, not the event itself. Stress is why two people can react in different ways to the same situation.
The stress response is our evolutionary survival mechanism, a physiological reaction that occurs in response to a perceived threat, preparing our bodies to react quickly. As a result, stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, are secreted, temporarily changing the whole body’s functioning. For example, stored glucose and fats are released for energy, heart rate increases, blood pressure rises, muscles tense, and oxygen consumption increases. In addition, other processes not needed at that time are suppressed, such as digestion and cellular repair.
Effects in the brain cause heightened emotional responses and reduced decision-making processes. For instance, suppose we face a high demand or challenge without allowing the body adequate rest and recovery time. In that case, these temporary imbalances can become prolonged and sustained, affecting our health, well-being and functioning.
Stress impacts company productivity as well as an individual’s well-being. It is a misunderstanding when people claim to need stress to keep them motivated and to meet demands, targets and deadlines. While the challenge is good, residual imbalance from our stress response is not.
Stress becomes a self-perpetuating cycle: Accumulated tension in the body means we are more likely to perceive subsequent events in a threatening way. In turn, this increases the activation of the stress response. And so on.
How meditation helps employees to cope with stress
Mindfulness techniques are increasingly being used to help people cope. With this the mind is trained to be in the present moment rather than caught up in the past or future.
As a meditation practice, mindfulness is a step in the right direction. Still, by progressing to a more profound meditation technique, such as Transcendental Meditation, more significant physiological benefits can be experienced.
TM gives the body intense rest, much deeper than sleep. Meditation has been called by scientists a “restructuring state” because it produces physiological reactions precisely opposite to those of the stress state. There is a great deal of scientific and anecdotal evidence about the benefits of TM.
Meditation is considered a mind and body practice. If meditation isn’t working for you, consider an alternative such as yoga, acupuncture, tai chi, massage therapy, relaxation techniques or spinal manipulation. All have been found to improve a variety of health conditions.
The rise of Transcendental Meditation in the workplace
It is now widely recognized that stress contributes to the majority of health issues, equating to a significant amount of time and money lost in businesses due to absence from work. Mindfulness techniques are often the first experience people have with meditation due to its rise in popularity in recent years.
Such practices are now accepted as having significant benefits in relieving stress and burnout, and research in The Meditation Trust shows meditation’s direct reduction of anxiety and levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Transcendental Meditation has much research evidence that indicates it reduces stress, depression, and physiological and psychological anxiety, among many other benefits to health and well-being.
Research into TM from Arizona State University also indicates that regular meditation within the workplace significantly improves job satisfaction and productivity. This research suggests that business owners would be prudent to invest in meditation programs to increase their workplace well-being and output.
Many high-profile business leaders practice regular meditation integrated into their hectic schedule to allow them to cope with the extreme levels of stress and hard work. Surely we should follow their lead and begin to take advantage of the benefits that meditation can offer our stress levels in the workplace.
“TM is a competitive advantage in the business world … I have the mental clarity and alertness for both laser-like focus on the details as well as broad comprehension,” said Steve Rubin, former CEO of United Fuels International.
How to incorporate meditation in the workplace
Incorporating meditation in the workplace doesn’t require a professional to facilitate the process. Here are a few suggestions that can help get you started.
Organize opportunities for meditation
If you are facilitating a session yourself, get personal and tell your employees about your meditation journey and how the practice can provide potential benefits to their work and personal lives.
If you have little meditation knowledge, hire a trained expert. A professional meditation instructor can help you create a personalized program. Then ask your team for feedback and make adjustments to maximize the program’s benefits.
Create a space for regular practice
Creating a location free from noise and distractions is essential when incorporating meditation in the workplace. Options include the following:
- A weekly group session in the conference room
- A daily silent meditation at their desk
- A centralized meditation room within the office
- A quiet space that contains books and digital media on wellness
Schedule ongoing sessions
Choosing a convenient time for meditation, such as at the start of the workday, during regular breaks or at lunchtime, is essential for starting a healthy habit. Try to choose a time that works for everybody (or the majority) to help encourage consistent meditation.
Simple meditation techniques include getting in a sitting position, closing your eyes, and taking slow, deep inhales through the nose and exhales through the mouth.
The location and how often you complete the above exercises can depend on how your team or an individual approaches their meditation. In some situations, you may need more time to calm the body.
Relaxing music is often added in the background when meditating to help clear the mind and inspire calmness and concentration. However, not everyone benefits from music, so asking your team before adding it to the session can help you better understand your team’s needs.
Collect feedback on meditation initiatives
While meditation increases productivity and overall health, it’s essential to consider how your team feels after each meditation. If it’s helping, great; continue to practice to keep your team on track.
If feedback is negative, consider asking what you can incorporate or remove to make the session more beneficial. For example, the meditation session may be too long or too invasive, so shortening the session or letting the team meditate individually in their own office may work better for long-term sustainability.
The benefits of meditation in the workplace
It is easy to get distracted at work with all of the daily to-do lists you have. Plus, keeping up with relationships, your personal life, bills, etc., can easily break concentration.
Meditation can improve focus, memory and concentration. This practice, in turn, can help you make better decisions, recall details and exceed expectations in both work and your personal life.
High-stress work environments can also benefit from meditation, allowing workers to stay on task longer and efficiently manage time.
According to Additude magazine, those diagnosed with ADHD can benefit from meditation. Although meditation techniques may differ from those without the diagnosis, learning to develop inner skills can help with self-observation, increasing attention span and the ability to cope with everyday stressful experiences.
Having team members who have good attendance can decrease turnover and improve collaboration. By incorporating meditation, team members can activate brain areas that strengthen the immune system.
Taking the time to meditate allows the mind to calm and permits it to wander. Allowing yourself a few minutes to shut off the lights, close your eyes and visualize challenges can help you develop creative solutions. These solutions may lead to innovations or ideas that you may have been too stressed to release.
Having a calm mood at work can be challenging, especially if the environment is fast-paced or in a state of constant change.
Meditation techniques can reduce mood swings by providing employees with a way of keeping their emotions in check. By neutralizing shifts in stress and anxiety, workers will be happier and more productive.
Employers might consider scheduling a daily meditation. Frequent reflections can help increase patience and might help employees be more satisfied with their work.
While meditation has been linked to increased empathy and compassion, new studies from California State University find that regular meditation practice could reduce prejudice.
Work stress levels can directly affect our emotional response to workplace challenges. In addition, if stress levels are not consistently in check, physical issues, such as heart disease, addiction, anxiety and depression, can arise.
Meditation is one of the easiest and best ways to manage work stress. Breathing exercises can calm burnout, anxiety and fear. In addition, employees can boost productivity and regain focus by taking a few moments to recenter.
Meditation isn’t just for employees. It can be for managers and employers too. Taking part in an employee meditation session can help you get to know your employees deeper through emotional intelligence, be more aware of your stress management and make decisions that benefit your team and the company (not just yourself).
Research in workplace settings has indicated that TM practice within organizations can significantly improve relationships between supervisors and co-workers. Also, it can increase job satisfaction, performance and productivity; reduce job-related worry and tension; and enhance the ability to make decisions. These benefits have been found in employees at every level of an organization.
Meditation at work doesn’t have to be done alone behind closed doors. You can incorporate meditation within teams or company-wide. Meditating as a group can help team-build and encourage collaboration. Meditation sessions can also bring a sense of unity, offering team members a connection beyond their title or daily work activities.
All of the benefits we see occurring within and between individuals from the practice of TM cannot help but improve the workplace environment and, subsequently, productivity. People of all professions rediscover their natural ability to remain calm under pressure, free from tension and fatigue, and operate at the peak of their mental clarity and performance.
Companies such as Goldman Sachs, Sony, General Motors, IBM and Toyota have made TM available to their staff. Business leaders, such as Arianna Huffington, Russell Simmons and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, advocate the practice and attribute their ability to cope with exceptional workloads and stress to their daily meditation.
Transcendental Meditation can also improve your personal life
All the research and evidence strongly points to a conclusion that regular Transcendental Meditation can positively impact the workplace through well-being, reduced stress, increased mental clarity and the ability to remain calm under pressure.
TM tackles the stress, which exists exclusively within the employee, affecting their perception of and response to external workplace issues. Of course, it doesn’t mean that we ignore bad practices in the working environment. Still, by going to the root of the problem and dissolving the stress in the individual, the apparent issues on the surface can resolve themselves naturally. The focus on the employee changes them from being part of the problem to part of the solution.
TM’s benefits will impact every aspect of personal, family and social life. Employees with a happy and fulfilling private life will take that into their workplace. Therefore, a business wanting to improve its workplace environment and productivity would be wise to consider a meditation program for its employees.
This article was co-written by Dr. Gemma Beckley, clinical psychologist and teacher of Transcendental Meditation for The Meditation Trust.