It seems that when you ask anyone how they’re doing—whether it’s friends, family, colleagues, or strangers on the street—the answer is always “stressed.” What is causing all that stress? Turns out that most of the strain is coming from our jobs. The World Health Organization even estimates that stress costs American businesses up to $300 billion a year in job turnover costs, health care expenditures, and absenteeism.
We’ve morphed into a culture that expects a frenetic pace, demands that we don’t stop until our energy is depleted, and asks that we limit self-care to the bare minimum. But finally, employees are resisting this speed, and employers have realized that slow and steady—not crazy and all over the place—wins the race. The idea of “mindfulness” has made its way into the mainstream with apps like Calm and best-selling programs from Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey. It’s become clear that the workforce needs to decompress, calm their thoughts, and take the adult version of nap time during their workday to succeed without imploding first. The solution? Meditation rooms in the office. These were once a “new age” perk pretty much only available in the start-up cultures of places like Silicon Valley. But more and more companies are now recognizing that the ability to sit still and meditate during the workday is good for employees.
A study conducted at the University of Washington found that those who had meditation training in the workplace were able to stay on task longer and were less distracted. Meditation also improved memory and alleviated stress.
Major companies are trying to capitalize on these benefits, incorporating meditation into their culture on a daily basis. Etsy’s headquarters include a “breathing room” where digital devices are not allowed. The only furniture is a stack of mats. Google goes a step further by offering their staff mindfulness courses, including one called “Search Inside Yourself.” At General Mills, there’s a dedicated meditation room in every building of their vast campuses, and they offer all staff members weekly meditation sessions and yoga classes. They also teach “Mindful Leadership” to settle the mind and create a calmer, more productive workforce. And Zappo’s, in addition to encouraging their team to meditate throughout the day, offers their employees EnergyPod chairs, massage chairs, regular wellness fairs, and on-site health screenings.
“Everyone gets stressed, so it’s important to have ways to manage it in order to stay productive,” explains Nico Pronk, Ph.D., F.A.C.S.M., F.A.W.H.P., president of HealthPartners Institute and chief science officer for HealthPartners. “Precision, accuracy, speed, and quality of work all suffer when people are stressed.”
You guessed it: This benefits companies just as much as it benefits employees. “More productive employees create a more pleasant company culture and an increased bottom line,” explains Steve Orma, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist and specialist in insomnia and anxiety. “This kind of culture attracts the most talented applicants, because they want to work in that kind of environment,” he says. “Just look at all the perks companies like Google offer their employees and how that attracts the smartest people in the world.”
If your company doesn’t offer a quiet room (yet), then make it a priority to take 10 to 20 minutes every day to quiet your mind. Add it to your calendar. Go outside and sit on a bench to close your eyes, clear your head, and take deep breaths. Put on headphones and listen to a meditation on an app such as Calm or Headspace—you can do it at your desk.