Top Corporations Are Taking A Break
If your company is like most, employee satisfaction and retention are a struggle, and it’s showing up on your bottom line. Stress has become an epidemic that affects the health of individuals and the companies they work for. While there are numerous studies and suggestions on how to reduce employee burnout and increase job satisfaction, most require a change in company culture and/or leadership style or direction. But what can you do when you don’t have time for more meetings, your leadership is stable, and you can’t provide gifts of appreciation let alone salary increases? Answer: Promote quality break time.
Making The Most Of Break Times
Some companies, such as Vistakon, have long been encouraging quality breaks for employees. Fifteen years ago a good friend of mine was on their “Stretch Team” providing two stretch breaks to employees daily. At that time, few companies valued the importance of break time the way Vistakon did. Today, while more companies are engaging in health-promoting breaks for employees, most are still operating in the old status quo.
An abundant amount of research indicates how relieving employee stress creates a more successful business. And, one of the best, and easiest, stress reducers available is through mindfulness breaks, or meditation as it’s commonly known.
Aetna, one of the largest health insurance companies in the nation, is also recognized for its forward-thinking practices involving employee health. Mark Bertolini, Aetna’s CEO since 2010, implemented meditation and yoga classes for employees after a skiing accident resulted in a broken neck. According to reports, the pain was excruciating and he was desperate to find relief. Yoga and meditation brought him the comfort he was looking for.
The Stress Effect
Stressed employees are less engaged in their job, are less productive, and have higher levels of absenteeism than employees who are not under pressure. Physically, stress takes an even bigger toll as it can lead to everything from recurring colds and flu, to heart attack and stroke. The psychological effects, however, can be most damaging as employees become depressed, anxious, and/or frustrated and angry. Additionally, for any company, the direct and indirect costs of stress on a company can be debilitating. In fact, it’s estimated that in U.S. businesses, stress results in workplace expenditures of $125-190 billion a year collectively.
The Mindfulness Break Benefit
When a person engages in mindfulness meditation, the effects on the body can be immediate. In a WebMd.com article, cardiologist Herbert Benson, MD, said: “Meditation helps decrease metabolism, lowers blood pressure, and improves heart rate, breathing and brain waves.” Meditation is also credited with relieving chronic pain, anxiety, and depression. “Any condition that’s caused or worsened by stress can be alleviated through meditation,” said Benson.
From a business perspective, the relaxation response initiated by meditation can produce a more balanced and productive company. An article in the Huffington Post written by Geoff Koboldt suggests corporate meditation breaks can create:
Incorporating Corporate Meditation Breaks
Mindfulness and meditation aren’t viewed as “far out” as they once were, but some employees still may resist the idea. Find a term that works for your team. Perhaps “Mindful Minutes” or “Breakthrough Breaks” or maybe something a little more fun such as “Brain Dump Breaks.” You may want to bring an outside instructor to offer a training on the benefits of the breaks, and teach your team some easy meditations they can do anytime, anywhere. If you have a willing team, consider having each person keep a journal of how they feel before and after their break. Then, see if there are any changes in their attitude, productivity, and stress levels after a few months of regular meditation breaks. The best part of meditation is that the benefits become stronger the more you engage in the practice. So, make it part of every day and see (and feel) how it changes you and your company.
Still not convinced? Apple, Google, Nike, AOL Time Warner, Yahoo!, Deutsche Bank, Procter & Gamble, HBO, and Aetna are obviously doing something right. Isn’t a quick, no-cost break worth trying at your company?